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Dawson Takes the Higher Road In SC GOP Chairman's Race
Jimmy Moore
April 21, 2002

The battle for who will become the next Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party this Saturday has turned into an all-out war. In what has been a rather lackluster campaign for the job of top Republican in the state, this past week has certainly been filled with underhanded potshots and personal attacks on the leading candidate in the race.

SC GOP Chairman candidate Cyndi Mosteller, the well-spoken Republican activist whose main claim to fame is that she has been a frequent guest on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect television show, revealed just how desperate she has become in this race when she accused Katon Dawson of demonstrating bias in the upcoming Republican primary in June.

Dawson, who is widely considered the frontrunner in the race for SC GOP Chairman, contributed $1,000 and has stored some signs for the Peeler for Governor campaign. Supporters of Mosteller claim that these “back room deals with primary candidates are divisive and imprudent for someone seeking the GOP State Party Chairmanship.”

In fact, one supporter of Mosteller went so far as to say that the actions taken by Dawson were “inappropriate” and that his candidacy should be disqualified! But, there is another side to this story you should know about.

Mosteller herself has endorsed Republican candidate Charlie Lybrand, who is running for a local office in Charleston County. Her name appears at the top of his campaign literature as a member of the re-election committee for Lybrand. Mosteller has asked Lybrand to remove her name from the list. Her excuse for endorsing Lybrand was because she thought he would be running unopposed in the Republican primary. However, Judy Tatum became a GOP candidate for the same office right before the deadline for candidates to file last month.

Lybrand has taken this unfortunate mishap in stride. He jokingly asked whether Mosteller cared if he were to “use white out because I’m running a low-budget campaign.” Even the candidate Mosteller supports understands that this controversy is much ado about nothing!

It should not matter to anyone who Katon Dawson or Cyndi Mosteller supports in political races across the state. None of the candidates for Chairman of the Republican Party are obligated to be neutral in the primary races until after they have been elected Chairman. Once they become Chairman, I agree that being neutral in primary races is important.

Take a look at what Spartanburg County GOP Chairman Rick Beltram does as an example of a Party Chairman remaining neutral. Beltram supports Bob Peeler’s bid for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in June. He’s not ashamed to tell you that if you ask him. However, if you look at the back of his truck, you would think he was politically schizophrenic! That’s because he has a bumper sticker representing every candidate running for office in 2002 plastered across the back of his truck. That, my friend, is neutrality!

Unfortunately, the criticism of Dawson is not limited to Mosteller.

The other candidate for SC GOP Chairman is Tommy Windsor, a former Lexington County Republican Party Chairman. I received a telephone call from him personally this week. He talked about how he is the only one with “Party” experience (whatever that means!) and that I should vote for him. I told him that I did not think it was his time to become SC GOP Chairman yet because Katon Dawson is better equipped than he is to lead the party in this decade.

Windsor then proceeded to question my support for Dawson. He claimed that he will not abandon the Republican Party like Dawson did after the last SC GOP Chairman election, when Dawson lost a close race to former SC GOP Chairman Henry McMaster. Windsor said that Dawson refused to play a role in the Republican Party after losing that race. Windsor said he would play a very active role in the SC GOP regardless of the outcome of the Chairman’s race.

Windsor is a young, energetic leader in the Republican Party. I told him personally that I think he would be an excellent leading candidate for SC GOP Chairman in about 8 years, after Dawson has decided he has had enough of the job. Windsor will still be under 40 years old and would be a key component of continuing the successes of the Dawson-led SC GOP. He did not like hearing that at all.

The fact is that everyone knows Katon Dawson is going to win the Chairman’s race this Saturday. It has been a foregone conclusion for a very long time. There is an important reason why he will win, though.

Dawson’s actions speak louder than the words that have been spoken in opposition to him in the past few days. He has shown himself as a powerful selfless leader by putting the interests of the Republican Party above his own. A great example of this is how he handled the recent debacle over who should be the SC GOP Interim Chairman.

Dawson had more than enough votes to become the interim Party Chairman to fill the vacancy left by Henry McMaster, who decided to step down to run for Attorney General. But, Dawson humbly declined the opportunity to become the Interim Chairman in an effort to be fair and unified going into the State Convention. This is exactly the kind of leadership the SC GOP needs at this time!

Katon Dawson’s maturity and leadership set him apart from his opponents. He has chosen to take the higher road in the midst of these personal attacks on him. He will remain strong and resolute regardless of what Mosteller and Windsor throw at him this week and at the State Convention.

Dawson will have a daunting task when he becomes the next SC GOP Chairman, though. His 10-point action plan details exactly what he will do once he becomes Chairman. His winning strategy includes unifying the party, delivering a strong conservative message in the media to hold Jim Hodges and Dick Harpootlian accountable, establishing a committee for raising money for the Republican Party, limiting himself to no more than two terms as Party Chairman, establishing a candidate recruitment committee, appoint a blue-ribbon committee to recommend party reorganization, become a better resource for County Parties, begin a building fund for a state headquarters building for the SC GOP, establish a fair play policy for headquarters staff to remain neutral in all primary races and retooling the outreach program to focus on bring more youth and women to the Republican Party.

Katon Dawson is up to the challenge of being the next Chairman of the Republican Party of South Carolina. When he wins the election on Saturday, it will be good news for Republican candidates in South Carolina this year and for many years to come!

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