Sex and Silliness in South Carolina

In the most stunning upset in South Carolina’s sordid political history, Alvin Greene, unknown and   unemployed, defeated Vic Rawl, former judge, legislator, and county council member, by a 59 to 41 percent margin to win the Democratic nomination for US Senate.  The mysterious Greene will face Republican incumbent Jim DeMint, an ultraconservative tea-bagger, in November.  The state Democratic Party has asked Greene to withdraw from the race because he faces a felony obscenity charge.  Greene was recently charged with disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity. Police say he showed obscene photos to a University of South Carolina student. He has been appointed a public defender which requires proof of being an indigent.  The 32-year-old unemployed veteran haltingly insisted he was a democrat and would not withdraw as he discussed his curious campaign with Keith Olbermann, but had “no comment” on the criminal charge.  


The mysterious Mr. Greene told reporters he was the “real deal” and would “make a difference”, “I knew I could win if I worked hard, just like I knew I could win in November if I work hard, and we can get South Carolina back to work.”   “I can beat DeMint.”  “Education, better education for our children, jobs and justice in the judicial system are my issues.”


Greene recently got out of the Army, and lives at his dad’s home in rural Clarendon County.  He presented a $10,400 personal check to the Democratic Party headquarters for his filing fee but was told it had to come from a campaign account.  He left and came back soon with a check that was accepted. Greene said he got the money by saving it up in the service.


He had no campaign signs, website, or media ads and didn’t attend the South Carolina Democratic Party convention in April.


SC Congressman Jim Clyburn said it was “shenanigans” and that Greene must have been “planted” and financed by those who opposed Rawl and supported DeMint. Former Democratic Chairperson Dick Harpootlian told NPR that the alphabetical placement of Greene above Rawl on the ballot could be the reason for the unbelievable upset and also mentioned the extremely low quality of life of poor and working class people in South Carolina.


In the South Carolina Republican Gubernatorial primary contest a week before the June 8th vote, State Senator Jake Knotts of Lexington County called Representative. Nikki Haley, an Indian-American candidate, a “raghead”   Knotts said Haley was hiding her true religion from voters. “She’s a f…king raghead,” Knotts said. He later clarified his statement, saying he did not mean to use the F word. Haley led the ticket in the Republican Primary, 49% to 23% for Congressman Gresham Barrett the 2nd place finisher. Haley and Barrett are competing in a June 28 runoff.


Knotts is a likable former cop.  He’s a friendly caricature of a Southern Sheriff like Rod Steiger’s portrayal of Sheriff Gillespie in The Heat of the Night. Knotts told Corey Hutchins of Free Times of Columbia that Haley was set up to run for governor by a network of Sikhs and outside influences in foreign countries.  Knotts said Haley is ashamed of her religion and is hiding behind being a Methodist.  “South Carolina is a religious community.  We need a good Christian to be our governor,” he said. “She’s hiding her religion. She ought to be proud of it. I’m proud of my god.”


Knotts says he believes Haley’s father has sent letters to India saying that Haley is the first Sikh running for high office in America. He says her father walks around Lexington, SC wearing a turban. “We’re at war over there,” Knotts said.  He said he did not mean the United States was at war with India, but was at war with “foreign countries.  “We got a raghead in Washington; we don’t need one in South Carolina,” he said, referring to President Obama, whose father was a Muslim from Africa. Knotts has rejected the Republican Executive Committee of Lexington County’s request that he resign, saying that libertarians were taking over the party.


Recently, political blogger Will Folks said he’d had an intimate relationship with Haley in early 2007.  Folks is a former campaign staffer for Governor Mark Sanford, who is a Haley supporter.  On June 2, Larry Marchant, a prominent lobbyist said he had sex with Haley while they were both married.  Haley has denied any sexual infidelity, and volunteered to resign if the charges were proven to be true after she becomes Governor.


Political nuttiness is nothing new in South Carolina:  In 1858, US Congressman Preston Brooks  "caned" abolitionist US Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, crippling him for life; when South Carolina seceded from the Union in 1860, James L. Petigru famously remarked, "South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum”; Strom Thurmond impregnated his family’s 15 year old black maid and sent his daughter up north to hide her away;  in 2009, Congressman Joe Wilson shouted, "you lie" at President Obama who was addressing a joint session of the US Congress; and in 2009, Governor Mark Sanford told us he was hiking the Appalachian Trail while he was in Argentina shacking up with his "soul mate".  


Sex and silliness, mystery and meanness, South Carolina politics is a never-ending mess.


Tom Turnipseed is an attorney, writer and peace activist in Columbia, SC. His blog is

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