Henry Brown still doesn't get it 

The Absentee Workhorse

Last week was not the best if your name happened to be Henry Brown (R-S.C.).

U.S. Congressman Brown, who likes to call himself "The Republican Workhorse," got things rolling by indirectly declining an invitation to a series of public debates from his Democratic challenger for the First District seat, Linda Ketner.

In her letter, Ketner wrote, "My suggestion is that all the debates take place in the district and allow for full participation of the voters. I also propose that at least two of these debates be on college campuses in recognition of the doubling of the number of young people who have registered to vote since 2004."

Ketner said that Brown has been conspicuously absent from the radar given that he is up for reelection. "Your absence has been noted not only by me, but by constituents in all five counties," Ketner said. "I feel as if I'm running against a shadow created by consultants, and [the constituents] feel that they are being represented by a shadow. Let's remedy this situation with debates."

At the end of her letter, Ketner added a personal note: "Several of my supporters have reported personal calls from you castigating them for supporting me. I hope this is untrue, as I would never expect that from a gentleman and public servant such as yourself."

In response, Ketner received a letter from Brown's campaign consultant Rod Shealy, declining the offer to the series of public debates, citing a previously agreed upon televised debate on October 1 and other joint appearances.

Shealy wrote, "With regard to your latest negative attack contained in your letter — that he is absent from the district — be assured that Congressman Brown is one of the most easily accessible congressmen in America."

Really? Is that why the Workhorse is hiding behind the extra-large Hawaiian shirt of a six-time loser?

As an aside, I've been highly entertained at Shealy's insistence that Brown's recent ill-fated and bone-headed attempt to get a federal flood insurance subsidy for millionaires dumb enough to build on a Kiawah Island sand spit is somehow a negative campaign tactic of Ketner's.

Shealy's letter continued with, "You may be aware that Henry Brown and his staff have handled over 80,000 constituent requests during his four terms in office, and he was recently ranked first in the entire Congress at staying-in-touch with his constituents."

I'm fairly sure that requests for flags and guided tours of the Capitol shouldn't count as "constituent services," but that's just me. Oops. There I go being cynical again.

Anyhoo, Ketner responded to Shealy's assertion, saying, "Rod says that Brown and his staff have provided 80,000 constituent services ... that averages 10,000 a year ... out of a District reaching 800,000. Sharpening my pencil, that would mean he's responded to slightly more than one percent of the people."

Shealy closed out his response to Ketner with this nugget, detailing why Brown has apparently been MIA on the campaign trail: "[H]e is, of course, in Washington doing his job, helping to find solutions to the gas and energy crisis facing our nation."

Sure he is. I'd be willing to bet he's on the phone yelling at people back home.

As of my deadline, rumors were swirling that someone in Henry's tent had agreed to another debate, but we'll see.

What I do know is that Mr. Accessible and his flunkies didn't bother to respond to my polite request for a comment, so I'll remind y'all of something Henry told The Post & Courier on Jan. 4, 2001, following his first swearing-in: "I think that I'm a team player. Unless it's completely contrary to my line of thinking, I won't go against the leadership."

Thanks, Henry. Thanks a lot.


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