I drove up to Georgetown last week for a chance to actually lay eyes on Congressman Henry Brown. The occasion was the Annual Coastal Carolina Realtors Association Lowcountry Boil & Stump. Political candidates — or their surrogates — from around the state were there to dip into some good Lowcountry boil and address the crowd.
After Brown refused to debate Democratic challenger Randy Maatta on SCETV a few weeks ago, and more recently failed to show up for the Coastal Carolina Realtors Association Pig Pickin' in Horry County, this seemed like a good opportunity for the incumbent to come forward and put to rest those rumors that his health is failing, that his mind is not sharp enough to properly represent his first district constituents in Washington. His office announced that he would be in Georgetown for the big event, and it was duly reported in the media.
A long procession of candidates and their seconds stood to speak. Among them was Maatta, who called for developing alternative energy sources and preserving the Lowcountry from Henry Brown and his petroleum industry sponsors, who want to drill for oil off the South Carolina coast. But when it came time for the congressman to come forward and defend his record and his energy policy, he was nowhere to be seen.
Spokeswoman Kathy Crawford announced that the congressman was detained on business and read a brief statement on his behalf. I later caught up with her to ask what in the world could be more important than Lowcountry boil and stump politics. She explained that it was all an error of scheduling. Some silly staffer in Washington had penciled the congressman in for two events at the same time.
So what was the other event? I asked.
A meeting in Berkeley County, she answered.
Where was the meeting?
She didn't know.
What was the subject of the meeting?
She didn't know that, either. But she assured me that it was more important than addressing 200 of his constituents in Georgetown.
One would think that Brown would welcome the opportunity to step up and explain why he wants to close the Charleston VA Hospital, or to explain why, after six years in office, his power rating among the 435 members of the U.S. House is only 250, according to Capital Advantage and the website www.congress.org. One might suspect he would use the event to counter his challenger's recent endorsement by a veterans group in Georgetown.
But maybe there is something more embarrassing for the portly, gray, 71-year-old congressman than pulling a no-show in Georgetown last week — and that is to invite comparison between himself and a vigorous young challenger like Randy Maatta.
And then there's Wallace Scarborough, the Republican incumbent seeking re-election in S.C. House District 115. Scarborough is battling not only challenger Eugene Platt, but reports that he has been carrying on an affair with Catherine Ceips, the Republican Representative from District 124 in Beaufort, at the same time he is going through an ugly divorce. (See City Paper, August 9, 2006.)
The candidates faced off during an appearance two weeks ago on Richard Todd's WTMA-1250 morning call-in program. Todd and several callers asked Scarborough if the stories of his affair with Ceips were true. Scarborough answered, "I don't know what my personal life has to do with building roads on James Island..."
So glad you brought that up, Wallace.
Last December, the State Infrastructure Bank met in Columbia to consider funding for several critical infrastructure projects around the state. There were five projects on the agenda, worth $1 billion, vying for $400 million in available funding. One of those projects was the proposed extension of the Mark Clark Expressway. On hand at the meeting were a number powerful politicos to speak for their special projects. The Charleston County delegation included the mayors of Charleston, North Charleston, Mount Pleasant, various County Council members and administrative officers — and Rep. Wallace Scarborough. The Beaufort delegation included a similar array of power and prestige — including Rep. Catherine Ceips.
But when Scarborough stood, he spoke not for the Mark Clark Expressway in his own district, but for improvements on U.S. 17 in Catherine Ceips' Beaufort district. Members of the Charleston delegation were dumbfounded.
"I was absolutely stunned," said one member of the delegation, who did not wish to be identified. "I thought, what is this fool doing, throwing his own district under the bus like that? ....Then I learned about this relationship (with Catherine Ceips) and it was suddenly clear."
So it seems that love triumphed over crass politics at the SIB meeting. But somehow I don't think the residents of District 115 are going to get a warm feeling about this.