Tumpy Campbell tossed his hat in the ring last week. If you are not familiar with the name, try Carroll A. Campbell III. That's right — Tumpy is the son and namesake of the late governor, and the ring he pitched his beanie at was none other than the 1st Congressional District race.
He will have an uphill battle to win the seat from the legendary "gray man" of the Carolina coast, Rep. Henry Brown. Brown was first elected to the seat in 2000 and, at age 73, shows no interest in retirement. In nearly a decade in Washington, Brown has distinguished himself in no way other than being a rubber stamp for George W. Bush and an obstructionist to Barack Obama's healthcare agenda. He has supported tax cuts for the wealthiest people in the country, corporate welfare on an unprecedented scale, and wars without end. But when it comes to providing healthcare for all Americans, Henry Brown says America can't afford it.
For years I have wished for some bright young candidate to deliver us from this ludicrous dinosaur of a politician. Tumpy Campbell is not what I had in mind.
Based on his brief and undistinguished public record, I see little to like or to admire in Carroll A. Campbell III. Appointed by Gov. Mark Sanford to the board of the State Ports Authority in 2004, Sanford later fired him from the prestigious position when Campbell opened a lobbying firm and boasted on his website that he had rail firm CSX as a client.
SPA was in delicate negotiations with CSX at the time, and Campbell was clearly in a potential conflict of interest in representing the railroad while serving on the SPA board. Furthermore, state law prohibits lobbyists from serving on state boards. If Campbell did not know this, he was too stupid to serve on the SPA board. If he did, he was too crooked.
Either way, he was so bitter about his dismissal that he actually took Sanford to court. Surreal as it sounds, he tried to sue the governor for exercising his legal authority to hire and fire members of state boards. It could only happen in South Carolina.
Like too many prominent Republicans in this state (including gubernatorial candidate Henry McMaster), Campbell was for years a member of the all-white Forest Lake Country Club in Columbia. It is a common story in this state which still flies the Confederate flag on the Statehouse lawn. He left the club in late 2008, saying the decision had nothing to do with his political aspirations.
Former S.C. GOP Chairman Katon Dawson was also a member of this club, until he ran for national party chairman. At that point he made the strategic decision to tender his resignation at Forest Lake. It did him no good; Michael Steele ultimately won the job. But since the loss of Campbell, Dawson, and perhaps others, Forest Lake Country Club dropped its whites-only policy in February.
This brings us to a delicate issue. Campbell has parted company with his first wife, something that seems to be epidemic in the family-values Republican Party. In announcing his candidacy for Congress last week, he was accompanied by Tracey Amick, his new fiancee.
Ms. Amick is a reporter/anchor for local television station WCSC. What will be her role in Campbell's campaign? How will she perform her duties at WCSC? Have the station managers thought this thing through? We are talking here not only about potential impropriety, but about the appearance of impropriety.
Who is Tumpy Campbell? Not a breath of fresh air, that's for sure. As a lobbyist and business consultant with an old political name and a lot of old political habits, he will fit perfectly into this state's tradition of who's-your-daddy politics.
Columbia blogger Brad Warthen recently went to hear Campbell speak at a Rotary luncheon. The speech was so dull, he wrote, that he did not bother taking his pen and paper out to record a word of it. Warthen writes, "...this speech was strikingly vapid. It was no ordinary bad speech, but a monument to the painful mediocrity that permeates the electoral process in our poor state."
I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I've been saying it for years.
Until the white people of South Carolina break from their past and learn to think for themselves, we will be stuck with the likes of Henry Brown and Carroll Campbell III to lead us and represent us. And we will continue to be a little Third World country of shame and poverty on the margin of this great nation.
See Will Moredock's blog at charlestoncitypaper.com/blogs/thegoodfight.