Run Karen, Run
April 7, 2005
Former Spartanburg County Councilwoman Karen Floyd is reportedly close to deciding whether to take on the reigning state superintendent of education, Inez Tenenbaum. Let me be among the first to publicly encourage Floyd to run. I think she could win, and I believe our state would be better off with a different education superintendent.
But I would be amiss if I didn’t offer some free advice that Floyd is almost certain to treat the same way all other political candidates treat my advice – that is, to ignore it completely.
Do not, I repeat – DO NOT – make your announcement until you have decided exactly where you stand on Put Parents In Charge, the most important piece of education reform legislation in the history of South Carolina. Too frequently, people decide to run for office, and when asked about a controversial idea that is important to the office, they shrug off the question with a non-answer – something to the effect “I haven’t fully studied that proposal, so I will withhold judgment for the time being.”
First, Karen, make sure you know exactly where you stand on PPIC. Then, make your announcement. If you seem even a little bit wishy-washy on school choice, no one will trust you, and they shouldn’t. Pick a side. Know why you have picked that side and get ready for the fight of your life.
No matter what side you choose, you will face very passionate and frequently unfair criticism. If you don’t have thick skin, you’d better get some. This is not going to be a race for sissies. Tenenbaum may look harmless, but the people who pull her strings have daggers for teeth, eat rusty nails for breakfast, drive steamrollers over children just for the fun of it and have hordes of soldiers in the press to do their bidding. (I may have exaggerated just a bit to make sure you didn’t miss the point.)
If you come out in favor of PPIC, you will get hate mail, the likes of which you can barely imagine. If you want to read some examples, check with Ed McMullen at the South Carolina Policy Council.
If you decide to oppose PPIC, Republicans who run against you in the primary will morph you into Inez so often that after a while even your friends won’t recognize you.
You are not a complete stranger to politics. You’ve headed the Spartanburg County Council, run your own campaign and helped others run theirs. That’s good experience, but it’s not a good indicator of things to come. The office you are considering is one whose internal political temperature approximates that of the surface of the sun. You’ve not been there before.
Good luck with your decision.