The Paranoia Of John Hawkins
April 21, 2003
Most incumbent politicians are not usually too concerned about the prospect of an opposing candidate in a primary or general election race, especially when the election is still well over a year away. Many of them are comforted by the fact that incumbents usually have the decisive advantages of name recognition and powerful fund-raising in elections and are historically overwhelmingly re-elected over 90% of the time.
But judging by the recent reaction that state Sen. John Hawkins has had to the candidacy of Spartanburg businessman and school board member Lee Bright running against him for his seat in the state Senate, I would have to say that he must be suffering from an acute case of paranoia.
SCHotline was the first to break the story last Friday (as it usually does, beating all of the state newspapers by several days) that John Hawkins may face some competition from within his own party in his bid for re-election next year. The SCHotline story reports that since Hawkins has made many factions of his constituency upset that Bright will pose a significant hindrance to his attempt to return to Columbia after 2004.
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reported on Sunday that Hawkins believes that Spartanburg GOP Chairman Rick Beltram recruited Bright to run against him for his Senate District 12 seat in the 2004 Republican primary because Hawkins was one of the members of the Spartanburg County legislative delegation who wanted Beltram removed as chairman of the local party last month. The clandestine attempt to oust Beltram was unsuccessful, as I have written previously about.
Hawkins believes that Beltram and Bright have been working together plotting a political coup on him for a long time. Unfortunately, Hawkins does not provide any evidence that would support this bold assertion. Bright says that he has been thinking about running for the state Senate for the past four years. He has held off until now so he could fulfill his prior commitment to the local school board. He has said that he will not be seeking a second term on the Spartanburg County District 6 Board of Trustees.
Lee Bright, who is a successful owner of a business called On-Time Transportation, wants to become a state senator so that business owners like him will have a stronger and more representative voice legislatively. Bright says that since Hawkins is a trial lawyer (as are nearly a third of South Carolina state Senators), he isn’t looking out for the interests of business owners. Bright would like to be an agent of change that is so desperately needed in Columbia.
Hawkins has been left dumbfounded by what has happened to him in the past few years. He really cannot believe what has happened to his promising political career in such a short period of time. When he was elected state senator in 2000, he had high hopes of even greater political gain. But, that all came tumbling down just about a year ago.
In last year’s GOP primary, he was considered by most to be the frontrunner in the Attorney General’s race before he gracefully bowed out amid alleged false allegations about his past. In fact, I was a vocal supporter of John Hawkins and publicly expressed my outrage about the way he was treated by members of his own party. Ironically, though, the very same thing that was done TO Hawkins last year was done BY Hawkins this year when he called for Beltram to resign. As a result, support for John Hawkins is quickly diminishing.
The paranoia of John Hawkins has become so severe that he actually believes that Rick Beltram has been actively working to find alternative Republican candidates to run against the people who wanted him gone. The way Hawkins is talking, I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts looking over his shoulder for spies or sweeps his office for bugs. After all, it’s all a conspiracy to him.
Hawkins thinks that “the relationship between Lee Bright and Rick Beltram is a little too cozy for (his) comfort.” The paranoia continues further when Hawkins alleges that Lee Bright is “one of Rick's top lieutenants” and is “controlled by” Beltram. As someone who knows both Rick Beltram and Lee Bright fairly well, nothing could be further from the truth.
Rick Beltram is interested in promoting the ideas of the Republican Party in Spartanburg County. He isn’t concerned with wasting his time on the kind of foolishness that Hawkins is accusing him of.
Likewise, Lee Bright has been a successful businessman for many years by investing many hours of hard work and determination to be the best he can be. And, contrary to what John Hawkins would have people believe, he didn’t need the advice of Rick Beltram about how to run his business!
As for Hawkins, he calls himself “an independent thinker,” but most of the legislation he has sponsored this year has simply been copycat measures in reaction to national tragedies and/or popular sentiment. None of the legislation he has proposed thus far would suggest that he has thought much about anything other than grabbing headlines to attract attention to himself for political gain. It appears that Hawkins is trying to coast into next year’s elections hoping no one will notice that he’s not making a lot of waves as a legislator. But, he is getting attention in other ways, too.
The State newspaper reported on Sunday that remarks made to a group of students by Hawkins at a pro-troops rally on the campus of USC last week have some people up in arms. When he blamed the media for unfairly focusing too much on the looting going on in Baghdad, Hawkins said that he “would rather take looting in Baghdad over the looting we saw in L.A. 10 years ago, any day.” This was a direct reference to the Rodney King incident and many believe the quote by Hawkins was racist.
When asked to explain, Hawkins attempted to clarify what he meant. He said the looting in Baghdad was primarily Muslims lashing out at the Baath Party regime for the oppression they experienced while the L.A. looting was a violent reaction against the citizens of the United States. Hawkins denied that his comments had anything to do with the issue of race. And these kind of comments give more fuel to the fire for Lee Bright to run against Hawkins next year.
Lee Bright is an amiable man with proven business success. His personal character and integrity are beyond reproach. The man is an active participant in his community through his involvement in programs such as Child Evangelism Fellowship. His genuine personal charm and honest demeanor make him a formidable challenge to a surprisingly vulnerable Hawkins. I will be following this race especially close on CommonVoice.