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A battle before the war
Jonathan Pait
May 20, 2002

Something has been bothering me. It has been sitting on my desk for nearly a month. It is a letter from the Leadership Team-Statewide Steering Committee Richard Eckstrom for Comptroller General. It arrived in my mailbox shortly after April 23, 2002.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must point out that come June 11 I will be voting for Deb Sofield for the position of Comptroller General. Deb has been one of my neighbors for more than five years. She has been my City Council representative and has helped my neighbors and me as we have sought to solve traffic issues on our street.

I will admit my bias.

You may recall Eckstrom's search for a race in which to run was reported on several Internet sites earlier this year. SCHotline.com carried a poll asking for which office he should try. Discussion centered on the question of whether it was a good thing to be a politician in search of a political office and approach it with the seeming attitude of "just any old office will do."

Meanwhile, Sofield was making plans to run for Comptroller General. For some time it appeared that she would coast through the primary with no opposition. Her focus was on saving money for the November race and then taking on the Democrat Party challenger. It was not to be.

Eckstrom made up his mind. He was not going to try to win back the position he lost in 1998. He set his sights on a new position. Sofield now had competition.

Lonnie Powell of the steering committee writes in the letter, "Some of you may have heard that another candidate has filed to run against Richard in the Republican Primary. She is also a very fine individual, but like the Democrat incumbent she seems to lack the qualifications necessary as the state's chief accounting officer."

This is the part that really got me. Remember, Eckstrom was a late filing candidate.

First, Sofield did not file to "run against Richard." She was first. If anything, he filed to run against her. Second, notice the "seems" in the final statement. Did the steering committee ever stop to consider that perhaps Sofield does indeed have the abilities to be the state's chief accounting officer?

Iím sorry, but this whole race seems to be a waste of Republican resources. A good candidate presented herself after much thought and planning. She was ready. Now, she must fight a battle just to get into the war.

It isnít just in this race we see this kind of behavior. The upper-hand for political superiority in South Carolina has been gained. Now, it could all fall apart as individuals seek to carve out their place in the territory that has been won. The Republicans begin to splinter while the national Democrats begin to pay more attention to the palmetto state.

Did Eckstrom put his finger to the wind to see which office would be the best fit for him? Would it have been better for the party if all of the resources of the party could be put behind the original filer for the race? Is he the best candidate to put up against the Democrats this fall? Would a fresh face with no past baggage be a better choice? These are questions that I will admit that I am too biased to answer. What do you think?

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