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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Spartanburg Democrats Exposed: Chairman Calls GOP Candidates 'Losers'
Jimmy Moore
September 13, 2004

I recently had the opportunity to do something that I have never done in my entire life. I attended a political rally sponsored by and featuring the Democratic Party (I think I need a T-shirt that proclaims, "I survived a Democratic Party rally!").

The Spartanburg County Democratic Party held a Bar-B-Que dinner fundraising rally on Tuesday, August 31, 2004 at 6:00pm at Cleveland Park in downtown Spartanburg.

Being the curious person that I am, especially when it comes to anything political, I decided to go to this event with my wife to take some pictures and video of what is happening with Spartanburg Democrats (to be honest, I didn't know any Democrats existed in Spartanburg County!).

We arrived early enough to see the people arriving to hear the local Democratic candidates and the featured speaker, U.S. Senate Democratic nominee Inez Tenenbaum.

The barbecue was excellent, although I happened to find a large bone in the middle of mine (zero carbs, by the way), but the people were not very friendly in my observation. I did not tell anyone I was a Republican, but the demeanor of the people who attended that rally made you think you were not very welcome.

And, honestly, it felt uncannily strange being in the midst of the enemy's camp scoping out the people who oppose nearly everything I stand for. Nevertheless, I sucked it up and committed myself to staying for the entire event no matter how deep in Democratic doo-doo it would get!

Spartanburg County Democratic Party Chairman Liz Patterson opened the rally by announcing that "happy days are here again" (although not too many people looked very happy in the audience!). The event for the local Democrats was sponsored by the Union County, Cherokee County and Spartanburg County Democratic parties.

Although three Upstate counties were allegedly represented by the crowd, I was amazed to only see around 250-300 people for a crowning Democratic event such as this. The Spartanburg County Republican Party easily garners this many alone for many of its fundraising events. I guess the local Democrats needed something to cheer about.

Is it just me or do Democrats seem to have a lot of trouble with basic math? Patterson exaggerated the actual number who attended this event to 400+ according to the Spartanburg Democrats web site and County Council Democratic candidate Leon G. Russ said there were more than 500 in a letter to the editor to the Spartanburg Herald-Journal.

I was there and these numbers are nearly double what was actually there. I've got videotape proof of what I am saying. By next week, they'll probably be telling people they had 1,000 people in that room that barely holds 300!

Getting back to the event, it was very noisy with people constantly talking during the prayer (while Democrats don't want prayer in schools, they certainly want God to bless the food before they eat it!) as well as while the candidates were speaking. This obvious lack of respect for their candidates perfectly demonstrates why the Democratic Party is all but dead in Spartanburg County!

Patterson, a former 4th Congressional District Congresswoman before Republican Bob Inglis soundly defeated her in 1992, expressed her desperation that the Spartanburg Democratic Party needs to have some local candidates win to remain viable.

I could not help but laugh when I heard Patterson and some of the candidates extolling their conservative values and traits, including strong support for the troops, strengthening of American families, demonstrating fiscal responsibility, and showing love for America, although the national Democratic Party takes virtually the opposite position on all of these.

The first Democratic candidate who spoke was Sheriff's nominee John "Jack" Owens, who was so inaudible when he spoke that the crowd talking over him drowned out nearly every word he uttered. But it didn't matter because Owens' comments did not make a lot of sense to these Democrats who don't want religion mixed with their politics.

Owens said God told him to run for Sheriff so he can "expand [his] witness to" the people of Spartanburg County. While I am not questioning that God told Owens to run, I am intrigued that he would run as a Democrat considering how Christians are loathed by them so much.

At least Owens was an honest man when he said, "I still think the guy I'm running against [Republican nominee Chuck Wright] is a very good man." And Chuck Wright will be a great sheriff as well, Mr. Owens!

After a few of the candidates spoke about how much more conservative and better they were than their Republican opponents, Patterson glanced in my direction with a glare that was priceless. I think it was at that moment she realized I was taping every word she and her fellow Democrats were saying.

She introduced another candidate and walked directly towards my wife and I asking, "Did [Spartanburg County Republican Party Chairman] Rick Beltram send ya'll?"

I responded, "I am here on behalf of the Republican Party, yes."

And that was the truth. Since I have no intention of switching my loyalties politically anytime in the near future, I was there on behalf of myself and the GOP. Nobody told me to go. I went because I wanted to go. It was certainly an eye-opener!

Speaking of eye-opener, have you heard this nut case who is running against Republican state Sen. John Hawkins for Spartanburg County District 12? This guy is so off-the-wall that I will have no problem voting FOR Hawkins (this is NOT a typo!) come November 2nd.

Let me demonstrate for you what Dr. Leonardo Ortiz represents as a candidate: he spouts off about creating jobs, conserving energy and eliminating the sales tax on groceries and medicine, which are all noble and conservative ideas.

But Ortiz told me during a one-on-one conversation that Hawkins actully stole HIS idea for eliminating property taxes, which Ortiz claims he came up with in 1995. Ortiz said state Sen. David Thomas and Hawkins as well as 2002 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Condon basically plagiarized his plan to swap property taxes for a two-cent sales tax hike. Oh, really? Can you prove it, I asked? Ortiz simply responded that he came up with it first. That still didn't answer my question.

Aside from stating he invented the whole property tax elimination idea, Ortiz said he believes it is time to bring back video poker as a revenue generator in the state since state-sponsored gambling in the form of the lottery already exists. He believes there is no morality problem with gambling and says that people need to get over their objections to video poker and support his call to bring it back.

While I may have had my disagreements with John Hawkins in the past, I am confident that he would NEVER support bringing back video poker as a means for raising revenue for the state. There are better ways to do that than to go down the corrupt path of gambling that Democrats are all-too-anxious to go down.

And beware of getting into a conversation with this Ortiz guy. He will talk your head off if you let him. While he makes sense only to himself, he's going to have a hard time convincing voters in the extremely conservative Spartanburg that he can represent them in Columbia. His motto is "Plain. Simple. Common Sense." which he made the crowd chant with him. But they were not very enthusiastic about it either!

Taking a pot shot at Hawkins and other Republicans, Ortiz said they only got elected "under the disguise that they will protect your rights" and encouraged people to "simply vote Democrat" up and down the ticket on November 2nd. No thanks, Mr. Ortiz!

Doughnut man Glenn Reese, who is in a hotly contested battle for his state Senate District 11 seat against Republican County Councilman Steve Parker, was not at this event because he had a meeting at Krispy Kreme. That's too bad since he'll be booted out of office on November 2nd.

Russ, who is running for the Spartanburg County Council District 3 seat currently held by Republican David Britt, got up to speak and obviously forgot to turn on his brain before spewing out what he said about his Republican opponent.

At the same time he apologized to Democratic County Councilwoman from District 1 Johnnye Code-Stewart for the remarks he was about to make, Russ said he thought it was despicable that Britt had served for so long as a county councilman. Now is that not the height of hypocrisy?

Here is a Democratic candidate who is lambasting his opponent for serving multiple terms on County Council while a fellow Democrat has served equally as long and is not given the same treatment from him. Am I missing something here other than the fact that Russ is off his rocker?! Did he not realize how asinine he sounded railing Britt, but not Code-Stewart? Apparently not.

And then in his letter to the editor to the Herald-Journal that I mentioned previously, Russ asserted that our local newspaper has a "right-wing bias" for not reporting on the Democratic rally like he wanted them to.

Puh-leeze! Will someone please inform Mr. Russ that the Spartanburg Herald-Journal is owned by the New York Times, arguably the most liberal newspaper in America today?! While they may not be as liberal as the NY Times, the Herald-Journal is certainly no bastion for the Republican Party.

Russ went on to say in his letter that he longs for the day when the news will be covered "without a political agenda." I agree, Mr. Russ. It's time the liberal bias of the vast majority of the news media in America stops rearing its ugly head!

Next up at the event was Tenenbaum who arrived late to the event coming from another rally across town.

She exclaimed to the audience that "we're going to win hands down" on November 2nd because "Democrats are more united than ever before."

Tenenbaum boasted that she has had a lot of support from moderates, Democrats and what she called GRITs, or Good Republicans For Inez Tenenbaum, which she believes will "put [her] over the top" on election day. She encouraged the audience to thank those GRITs who are supporting her campaign.

Getting right to the issues she has focused on in her campaign, Tenenbaum said she will talk about jobs, health care and education. On the latter issue, Tenenbaum said she will be a senator who will "put education first," although education in South Carolina is ranked dead last according to the latest SAT scores.

Addressing the SAT controversy, Tenenbaum attempted to rationalize being in 50th place out of 50 states by claiming the 32-point increase in the SAT scores over the past five years in South Carolina is the best in the nation. But we're still in last place! This is not a rebuke of the teachers or the students, Ms. Tenenbaum. It is a direct result of your failed leadership in the one area you are responsible for. You know, the absolute gall of this woman to speak about her education successes in the midst of miserable failure is incredibly arrogant and out-of-touch.

Stating that she will be a bipartisan voice in Washington, Tenenbaum summarily began to rip into U.S. Rep. Jim DeMint's support for H.R. 25, which would eliminate the IRS and replace it with a 23-cent national sales tax.

"This is not good," Tenenbaum said, complaining that it would do away with funding for education, Medicare and other essential government services. "The middle class will pay more in taxes."

Citing a study from the liberal Brookings Institute, Tenenbaum said they believe a 60-cent national sales tax would be needed to cover all of the services currently paid for by the federal income tax. Tenenbaum said she was going to make this her priority issue until election day because she likes the current system of taxation.

Already using this issue for partisan political purposes, Tenenbaum has misrepresented what DeMint is proposing just as the campaign for Gov. Jim Hodges in 2002 misrepresented Republican candidate Mark Sanford's five-cent gas tax idea. Nevertheless, just as Sanford overcame Hodges easily in that election, so will DeMint soundly defeat the liberal in moderate sheep's clothing Tenenbaum.

"I am born to win this race," Tenenbaum boasted as she admonished the crowd to "keep me in your prayers."

Smirking as she was leaving, Tenenbaum hurriedly shook hands with several members of the crowd before exiting.

Then, Patterson got back up to speak and thanked the people who made the event possible.

But in a surprisingly careless moment, Patterson said she also wanted to thank Beltram and the Spartanburg County Republican Party for sending two people to their event, pointing her finger directly at my wife and I.

And I couldn't believe what Patterson said next.

"Maybe, just maybe, they know their candidates are losers and we're winners," Patterson interjected in the heat of the moment, glancing slyly in our direction with a look of pleasure for exposing us as Republicans.

Yep, you read that right. Patterson described the Republican candidates for political office as "losers." Her snide comment that we had nothing better to do since the Republican candidates were all "losers" shows just how bitter the leadership of the Democratic Party has become in Spartanburg County.

All in all, this event was pretty much what I expected from the local Democratic Party. Even after her inappropriate comments at the end, I shook Patterson's hand and thanked her for allowing me to videotape and my wife to take pictures.

What a strange way to spend a couple of hours on a weeknight! I think I'll take that T-shirt now!

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In 1992 and 1994, Liz Patterson led in two major races - re-election to her Congressional seat and for Lt. Governor - only to be upset by two outsider political novices, both of whom closed considerable polling gaps to defeat her in the closing days of the campaigns. It is often said that it takes one to know one. . . .

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