South Carolina Democratic Senate Primary

By , June 13, 2010

Thank You, South Carolina!

When I first read the headlines this morning, I was confused and a bit angry: national political figures (South Carolina Representative and House Minority Whip James Clyburne and White House advisor David Axelrod) viciously criticized Alvin Greene, the winner of the South Carolina Democratic Primary for the U.S. Senate, and called for him to withdraw from the race. Some claim that his victory was “not legitimate” and that he is a “GOP plant.”

How, I wondered, could someone win the Democratic primary without being “vetted”?  Why didn’t the Democratic Party invest money to support Greene’s primary opponent? And most important, why should the voters of South Carolina be ignored?

Well, it turns out that I’m not the only one wondered what’s going on. As is typical for a story that breaks nationally on the weekend, there are lots of allegations but few pieces of information that could confidently be called “facts.”

Here are some of the allegations in news reports:

  • Alvin Greene is unemployed.
  • Greene is receiving unemployment benefit payments.
  • Greene did not actively campaign, and was essentially unknown to South Carolina voters and politicians.
  • Greene’s name appeared first on the Democratic ballot for the U.S. Senate nomination.
  • Greene is an Army veteran who was “involuntarily discharged,” but received an “honorable discharge.” He was earlier a member of the Air Force and Army National Guard.
  • Greene earned a degree in political science in 2000 from the University of South Carolina.
  • Greene claims that the $10,440 filing fee came from his bank account, and was saved before or during his Army service.
  • Greene filed no required election statements with the Federal Election Commission.
  • The Associated Press reported that Greene was arrested in November 2009 and faces “obscenity” charges,” but has not entered any plea and has not been indicted. (Some reports state that under South Carolina law, Greene would be disqualified from running for office if an indictment were pending.)
  • The Associated Press reported that Greene is represented (in the obscenity case) by a public defender (normally a benefit reserved for the indigent, not available to someone with $10,000 in the bank).
  • Only one report claims that Greene initially attempted to pay the $10,440 filing fee in cash; others claim he initially attempted to pay with a personal check, but was advised to open a campaign bank account, and later returned with a check drawn from a campaign bank account (some reports say it was a cashier’s check).
  • Greene received a higher proportion of Election-Day votes (cast using electronic voting machines) than of absentee ballots (a difference of about 10%), and an exceptionally high proportion of electronic votes in some geographic areas.

By most accounts, Greene’s victory will have little impact on the outcome of the general election. His Democratic party rival was widely expected to lose to the incumbent Republican Senator.  This explains why neither Democratic Party officials nor Greene’s opponent bothered to “vet” Greene’s candidacy.

While Greene’s primary opponent actively campaigned, it’s likely that many voters didn’t know anything about either candidate (the media’s focus was on higher-profile campaigns, particularly the gubernatorial primary campaigns).

Some analysts have suggested that many non-white voters might have voted for Greene because the spelling of his name effectively identified him as black.

Several commentators have suggested that vote-tampering might be a factor.

Some South Carolina politicians suspect that Republican “operatives” may have paid Greene to run for the Senate seat, possibly to ease the incumbent Senator’s re-election, and possibly to embarrass the Democratic Party.  Given the many recent scandals in South Carolina politics, it’s getting harder and harder to embarrass anyone.


Some news and blog reports about Alvin Greene’s U.S. Senate campaign:

New York Times:

Washington Post:

Washington Post:

Independent interview with Greene:

National Review:

Fox News:

Scott Creighton:

Christian Science Monitor:

Huffington Post:

Swing State Project:

One Response to “South Carolina Democratic Senate Primary”

  1. Mark Welch says:

    In some of the more recent reports, some writers and broadcasters have suggested that Mr. Greene may be “impaired,” and that others may be “taking advantage of him,” based primarily on his very bizarre, slow, and non-response answers to questions during several short interviews. These references are usually non-specific, and might refer to current impairment from (current or past) substance abuse or medication, or perhaps to some injury or disability, or perhaps to some perception that he might be “developmentally disabled.”

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