With national attention being placed on spending, healthcare "reform" and jobs, it's easy to forget that, as Tip O'neill said, "All politics is local."
With this in mind, I reached out to the Republican candidate for the 5th Congressional District in SC, Michael (Mick) Mulvaney. Currently Mulvaney is a state senator, but he now seeks national office, and, more specifically, the seat of Rep. John Spratt (D). Unseating Rep. Spratt will be no easy task. He's a 14-term incumbent and Chairman of the Budget Finance Committee.
In spite of this, Time Magazine named Sen. Mulvaney's campaign to be of the top five (out of 500) races to likely deliver a stunning Scott Brown-style upset in the 2010 elections.
Mulvaney is a true conservative, the kind I believe any redstater can get behind. If you aren't convinced by the fact that he was one of only a handful of state senators to vote to uphold Gov. Mark Sanford's veto of the state budget (which included stimulus funds), perhaps his view on government is best summed up in this quote from his website: "I believe that the federal government's primary duty is to safeguard our personal freedoms so that we can reach our highest potential as individuals. Somehow our government has forgotten that. In just a generation Washington has gone from 'Ask not what your country can do for you…' to 'We will guarantee your GM warranty.'"
I asked Sen. Mulvaney what he thought about the comparisons to Scott Brown. "This has very little to do with me," he said, "and a great deal to do with reaction with what is happening out in Washington." He noted that Spratt has held the seat for 28 years, and has won by a margin of at least four the entire time. Despite that record, Mulvaney indicated that the polls are starting to reflect him "gaining among some of the core constituencies including independents".
I was pleased to hear him speak highly of free markets and stand by his rejection of the stimulus. In South Carolina, 2009 ended with a 12.6% unemployment rate which Mulvaney seems to believe would have been, at worst, the same if not potentially better had the state not chosen to override Sanford's veto of a 5.7 billion dollar budget which included over $350 million dollars in stimulus funds. As he noted "One prediction about the Stimulus came true which is that it wasn't going to create or save any jobs" and believes that it will ultimately be seen as "very damaging to the economy of the nation as well as South Carolina."
I think we all remember the 1994 "Republican Revolution", which was a great day for conservatism but ultimately lead to the expansion of government, particularly under Bush. That pattern of behavior resulted in their ousting in 2006 and Democratic control of government. I would have been remiss if I didn't challenge Mulvaney on how to settle our fears that we may be witnessing a repeat. He took the question very seriously and started by acknowledging that the American people "are right to have a certain amount of cynicism, the Republicans did let them down, especially in the first half of the last decade" where he noted that Republicans held both houses and the Presidency and did not bring the conservative agenda to bear.
His answer on how to rest fears? Check the voting record. Well I checked his and so should you. Suffice to say, getting a 100% rating from the NRA and voting on principle even when it could've been viewed as unpopular, such as the state budget veto, are evidence that he stands by what he described to me. "There is a group of people for whom the principles are more important than the party, that the conservative label is a better description of what they are." But don't think that's code word for going third party as in his words "the proper way to win is to fix things by reforming the Republican party from within."
It's worth mentioning that he not only is against the current health care bill, he says he "will actively pursue repealing it" as part of his agenda. There was a moment of silence after stating that objective which he broke by mentioning "I don't think I can be more clear than that." I couldn't agree more.
Finally I touched on another subject that is dear to my heart. Bi-partisanship. I've personally held the belief for a long time that bi-partisanship is simply code for "doing some, but not all, of what progressives want, and none of what conservatives want." A lot of politicians will give you great lip service about how bi-partisanship and compromise are the answers to all problems with government, so I crossed my fingers and hoped Mulvaney wasn't one of them. He did not disappoint. "Sure I'm open to compromise, sometimes reaching across the aisle is the only way to get things done," he said, "but at some point you've got to realize that there are some fundamental differences between conservatives and progressives that just won't be reconciled."
Senator Mulvaney did not take shots at Congressman Spratt. But as a resident of South Carolina who is trying to convince his fellow redstaters to send support to a candidate not in their district, I feel that while the picture of who will be hired is of the utmost importance, who will be fired matters as well.
It was only two years ago that a hurricane had started sweeping through the gulf coast as the Republican National Committee began it's 2008 convention to announce the nomination of John McCain for President. Only three years earlier, Hurricane Katrina had ravaged the south east leaving over 1,800 people dead. New Orleans had not yet recovered and was in great danger as a result of the impending storm and fears began to swell up among the populace that God had it out for that historical city.
On a plane headed to North Carolina however, an interesting conversation was taking place. Former head of the DNC Don Fowler did not seem to think that the hurricane which could very well strike the killing blow against an already weakened city, was bad. In fact, he thought it was evidence that God was on the side of the Democrats in the great presidential debate. Apparently, to Mr. Fowler, a natural disaster that endangers americans, must be viewed through the lens of politics. If this wasn't apparent when Katrina was used to savage President Bush it certainly was apparent during this conversation.
The news spread of what Mr. Fowler had said and he side stepped the controversy by blaming a dead pastor, but as a resident of the 5th Congressional district of S.C., I was deeply disturbed by the sound of laughter coming from none other than my Congressman Rep. John Spratt. He was the other half of this conversation and apparently agreed that the callous nature through which Mr. Fowler observed natural disasters was either agreeable or at a minimum, hilarious.
Spratt is a supporter of the healthcare bill making it's way through congress and a member of the powerful Budget & Finance Committee which has been key in putting together the phoney-baloney numbers to justify the bill that made it's way through the House in November. He has a 100% NARAL rating and a 0% rating from the Right to Life Committee. He's served for 14 terms in a district dominated by conservatives by walking the fence during the campaign but then toeing the party line in office.
He's overstayed his welcome. He's pushing Obama's radical agenda. But most importantly, he's beatable.