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October 25, 2006 | South Carolina Headlines


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Seeking a Manigault Transition
Jonathan Pait
July 19, 2002

A week or so ago a small group of Upstate citizens met at the request of a mutual friend. The purpose of the meeting was to give some advice to Marva Manigault, the Libertarian candidate for State Superintendent of Education. These citizens had expressed some interest in getting to know more about Dr. Manigault and her campaign.

How could the Libertarian candidate win in November? The political reality is that she stands a very small chance in her current situation. Something would have to change drastically if she were to be able to make a serious run for the office.

Her main need is to be able to pull Republican voters into her camp. After much discussion on how this might be done, the point was brought up, “Well, why doesn’t she just switch to the Republican Party?” The counter to the question was that the Republican Party already has a candidate. “Yes, but what if the current candidate was to step down?”

It was an intriguing question to be sure. Some thought had gone into this option before it was presented to the group, but the group as a whole was surprised by the option being floated. A pause and then everyone looked at Dr. Manigault. What did she think?

Marva Manigault was a Democrat. However, as she began comparing her own stands on education with that of the Democrat Party she realized that the party platform and practice did not match up with her own. She then attended some Libertarian meetings and got to know leaders in the party. She found the party was much more conducive to her ideas on education.

She looked back at the inquisitive faces and replied. “I don’t know if I can step away from the Libertarian Party.” One of the members of the group responded that if she remained in the party she could hang up the idea of being the next Superintendent of Education. Others chimed in to point out that as a Republican she would have more exposure and have the party machine working for her.

Obviously, the group realized that this might be nothing more than a hypothesis. Early on the point was made that election laws might not allow it. Still, it sure made for interesting conversation. The discussion continued with the idea of “If it were possible. . .” Frankly, Marva Manigault as a Republican was very intriguing.

First, her ideas for education were very consistent with Mark Sanford’s plans discussed earlier this year. Rather than just repeating the George W. Bush mantra of leaving no child behind, Dr. Manigault’s ideas showed some desire for true reform.

Second, Dr. Manigault knows secondary education. Her degrees are in education and education administration. She has worked as a teacher and an administrator. Not only does she know the theory, she has experienced it on the secondary level. She has taught the kids. She has worked with the parents.

Third, you have to face it, as a black woman she blows the Democrat stereotype of Republicans out of the water. One member of the group made much of this fact. Others expressed that this was more or less icing on the cake. The primary point was that Dr. Manigault is articulate, attractive and personable in addition to her obvious abilities and experience.

Would she leave the Libertarian Party? She did say that her platform was more important than a political party. The point still remained that even if she was willing to switch parties it might not be possible because of the election laws.

The meeting raised more questions than it did answers. The group disbanded to allow Dr. Manigault to begin thinking of the choices before her. Others in the group started the ball rolling to see if it would be possible for such a switch. There is the obvious point Dan Hiltgen might not wish to step down.

Two things need to be made clear in all of this. One is that this was not a move set in play by “leaders in the Republican Party.” I know because I was there and I am not a leader in the party. There were a couple of party activists on a county level, but no state leaders. Leaders were approached with questions, but this was not a party move to replace Hiltgen with Manigault.

The second point is that Dr. Manigault left the meeting to go on vacation to New Orleans with her parents. Her desire in the meeting was to get advice to help her in the campaign as a Libertarian. She was somewhat taken back by the desire of those meeting with her to become a Republican. She wanted to take time to think about such a major transition.

It begins to appear that such a change could not happen. It is sad. It is true that Marva Manigault faces an incredibly hard battle to be the next State Superintendent of Edcucation. As a Libertarian she has little to basically no support. The party only had 30 attendees to their recent state convention.

It is also true that she is not a finished project. She is not a politician. She is a babe in the woods. However, with the proper team to get her through a campaign she could be a breath of fresh air in a department that could use a little more oxygen.

How intriguing it is. However, it will never be. Now that the rumor mills are running in full gear and words are being placed in people's mouths, discussion will probably abate. Plus, it appears that outside of an act of God, the Manigault transition wouldn't be allowed.

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