Beltram Coup Thwarted At Spartanburg GOP Convention
November 3, 2003
The Spartanburg County Republican Party had its County Convention, which is held every other year, this past Saturday, November 1, 2003 in the new Dorman High School. As a delegate attending the event, I am excited about the impact the Republican Party in Spartanburg County is going to make in the 2004 elections.
It was an exhilarating day for the Spartanburg GOP as more than 350 people were in attendance at the event, including 280 voting delegates to the convention. Most of them arrived early enough to enjoy the buffet-style breakfast paid for by the candidates running for various offices in 2004.
I have just a few observations to share about this momentous event.
The acoustics in the high school cafeteria were horrible for an event like this one. When I first heard the County Convention was going to take place there, I thought about the noise level from all the high school students eating in there when I have taught at Dorman High School. And my concerns were justified as most of the speakers were having trouble being heard by the delegation. Most speakers were relegated to holding the microphone close to their lips when they spoke. For some timid speakers, even THAT didn't help.
There were many elected officials and candidates for office in 2004 in attendance. But it was a certain candidate who was NOT in attendance at the County Convention that stood out the most to me. I am referring to former South Carolina Attorney General Charlie Condon who is running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Fritz Hollings. Is Condon's absence at the County Conventions in both Greenville and Spartanburg a sign that he is conceding the Upstate to DeMint? It certainly seems that way since he chose not to visit either of the largest gatherings of Republican activists in the Upstate on Saturday.
Alexia Newman was the Chairman of the Resolutions Committee. There were 12 resolutions presented to the delegation and subsequently passed by a block vote of the delegation. However, the vote was not without incident.
One elderly gentleman expressed his concern about a resolution regarding cutting government spending. He said he believes more money should be spent on prescription drug coverage for senior citizens. He was encouraged to draft a resolution to present at the next Executive Committeemen's meeting.
Another delegate found fault in a resolution that would suppress all immigration for the next two years to help INS catch up with the problems they are having documenting legal immigrants as well as dealing with the illegal aliens who are roaming inside this nation's borders. The man said this penalizes people who want to come to the United States legally. His comments were heard without additional comment.
Finally, a resolution that calls for the repeal of the Patriot Act as presently written brought the ire of a man who said the only people he knows that oppose this are unpatriotic and on the far left of the political spectrum. However, a member of the Resolutions Committee and military veteran stood up and explained the committee's decision to include this resolution by stating that there are problems with it that must be addressed to make it better.
There was a small amount of lag time as the delegation waited for South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson, Governor Mark Sanford and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham to arrive from the Greenville County Republican Party Convention.
When they came and finally spoke to the restless gathering of Spartanburg GOP activists, each of them credited Spartanburg County with delivering big wins for the Republican ticket in 2002 and applauded the efforts of the volunteers. They said it will need to happen again in 2004 to help Bush win South Carolina and get a Republican to join Graham in the U.S. Senate.
After the elected officials left the podium, all eyes were on the Party Officer elections, mostly because of the extensive press coverage of the political terrorists who have attempted to oust Spartanburg County Republican Party Chairman Rick Beltram over the past year.
Beltram had expected to face Mike Dixon for the Chairman's seat, although Dixon never officially announced his candidacy for the position. However, the political terrorists I have spoken about before at CommonVoice.com thought they had devised a brilliant plan for taking over the Spartanburg GOP.
It turns out that state Sen. John Hawkins (who is still acting very paranoid!) was able to convince former Spartanburg County Council Chairwoman Karen Floyd to run for Party Chairman against Beltram. Most interesting to me what that neither Hawkins nor Floyd concealed their plan to unseat Beltram. During a restroom break, I saw them speaking intently with each other just outside the convention floor. And what do you want to bet they weren't discussing their lunch plans either?!
When I heard Floyd was running for Chairman, I leaned over to my wife and predicted that Dixon would probably drop out of the race for Chairman because he would announce to the delegation that Floyd would be a much more reputable opponent to face Beltram. Five minutes later, Dixon marched to the microphone and did exactly as I had expected. This was certainly going to make the vote for Chairman just a bit more interesting.
There was some controversy over Floyd even being allowed to run for Party Chairman since she was not a delegate to the Convention. In fact, Floyd has not even been active at all in the precinct meetings or any Republican Party events in Spartanburg County over the past year.
Here is how the other races went:
In the State Executive Committeeman race, incumbent Gary Towery was to run unopposed. However, someone nominated Mike Dixon for the post since he was no longer running for Chairman. In his speech before the delegates, Dixon said he was tired of the bickering and divisiveness within the party. In response to that, I wanted to ask him why HE was causing so much trouble. But I think everyone knows the role Dixon has played in that.
As for the four vice-chairmen positions, who convention president state Sen. Jim Ritchie kept referring to as "vice-presidents," all of them were uncontested. When Ritchie entertained a motion that each of these positions along with the secretary be voted in by acclamation, state Rep. Bob Walker stood up and questioned why this was being done. Ritchie explained that since no other candidates for those offices were nominated, it would help expedite the process for the vote counters and save some time. Walker argued that the delegates should have the option of voting for a write-in candidate if they so choose. That would prove to be a time-consuming decision towards the end of the convention.
Finally, the office of treasurer was also supposed to be an uncontested race with Art Krebs running for the first time since replacing the late Ellen Lanier in the post in February. However, Donna Turner Williams was approached by a delegate at the Convention and nominated to run against Krebs. In her speech to the delegation, Williams said she had no intention of even coming to the Convention this year because of all the fighting that has happened over the past year. She said she decided at the last minute to show up and was forced to bring her grandbaby with her because she couldn't find a babysitter. While she criticized the current leadership of the Spartanburg GOP, Williams neglected to admit her part on the other side in the squabbling over Beltram's leadership.
In all of the races for State Executive Committeeman, Secretary, Vice-Chairmen and Treasurer, the people selected by the Nominating Committee won landslide victories against their opponents. In other words, Walker's concerns turned out to be invalid and slowed down the process of counting the votes. As a result, the County Convention did not conclude until close to 1:30pm.
However, the vote in the race for Spartanburg County Republican Party Chairman was much closer.
Hawkins convinced state Rep. Scott Talley to make Floyd's nominating speech. And Rep. Doug Smith was prepared to make her second speech when she decided to waive him off and do it herself. As Floyd was speaking, she pleaded with delegates to vote for her to bring about the change that was needed.
In the end, Floyd received 126 votes compared to the 138 that Beltram garnered. Just as he did two years ago against Marlene Saad, Beltram won by a very close vote.
However, this victory for Beltram was much more significant since, unlike Saad, Floyd was a much stronger opponent with a tremendous amount of clout and name recognition with the delegates. In fact, this was the first time Floyd has ever lost an election in Spartanburg County!
Most importantly, the delegates to the County Convention were able to see through the ploy pulled by Hawkins and his other political terrorist cronies.
What was Karen Floyd thinking getting involved in Hawkins' personal vendetta against Beltram by running for Spartanburg GOP Chairman? Whatever good reputation she had prior to this was certainly soiled somewhat by being a willing pawn in this game of revenge.
Let this serve as a warning to Hawkins and the other political terrorists lurking out there (and you know who you are) seeking reelection in 2004. Your efforts against Beltram should lead every man and woman living in your district to question whether they want someone to represent them who pilfers in local politics or one who will fight on their behalf in Columbia.
As for Hawkins, with competition from within his own party next year, he better watch out because he can be replaced.