It seems the effort to get answers about what went wrong in Richland County on Election Day has turned into a civil war, of sorts, between some members of the Richland County legislative delegation. For weeks now, Rep. Mia Garrick has been looking for answers and it seems her insistance on getting answers for her constituents, and others, is not sitting well well with the "old guard/good ole boys & gals club," as Garrick describes in her latest message.
Representative Howard’s comments in the Free Times today, paint the perfect picture of what’s wrong with government at every level. The old guard is alive and well and has long since assimilated to the “protection of the status quo at all costs” mantra of the good ole boys & gals. If you think about it, the similarities are striking. They all:
1. Get elected
2. Stay way too long, and
3. Forget about the people who sent them
In the case of Rep. Howard and so many others, 19 years is an awfully long time. And that old guard/good ole boys & gals club is bipartisan, biracial and undoubtedly the strongest coalition ever to occupy both chambers of the State House.
In fact, most elected leaders who have overstayed their welcomes actually entered government “on fire” and eager to represent the people who sent them. But somewhere along the way, that passion and zeal gradually yields to self-inflation, self-promotion and an undeniable sense of entitlement.
But beware, because when their stronghold is threatened, they fight hard and play dirty. Very few stand up to them and survive. In fact, their “messengers” have already notified me that they’re aggressively looking for my replacement.
Whether through intimidation, threats or negative attacks like the one Rep. Howard hurled today, accusing me of “trashing" Director McBride "without evidence" and expressing disappointment that I would do that to another African American woman, they’ll stop at nothing to unleash their wrath on anyone who crosses them.
And although it’s unfortunate that Rep. Howard and his old guard crew have chosen to focus on Director McBride, this isn’t about her (personally). And it’s not about race. But it is about her qualifications and competence to responsibly and effectively do the job that she was hired to do.
As a former state Director, I was responsible for my own actions and accountable for the actions of every manager and staffer that I supervised. Why would I hold this Director (or any other) to a lesser standard?
Now here we are a month later, still “finding” voting machines and uncounted ballots, after assurances, apologies and a “certified” election. The Director has admitted that she and her staff broke the law by not deploying enough machines on Nov. 6. Countless voters were disenfranchised. How much more "evidence" do we need?
To suggest that I "trashed" the Director by simply asking the questions that needed to be asked to try to get to the facts during our "so-called" legislative fact-finding hearing, is a lie. And quite frankly, I find his comments and the spirit in which they were made, despicable. The reason my questions were directed to Ms. McBride is because she is the County Elections Director. The fact that she also happens to be African-American is irrelevant.
Obviously, Rep. Howard is okay with the disenfranchisement of Richland County voters. Perhaps he wouldn’t be so apathetic if he had taken the time to visit precincts like I did on that extremely cold, windy day as our constituents stood outside for hours just to cast their ballots, only to wonder now if they were even counted.
And since he insists upon playing the “race ”card, although race has no place in this equation, I’ll share something else with you that I’m amazed a former SC Legislative Black Caucus Chairman, current standing committee Chairman and active NAACP leader like Rep. Howard is obviously willing to overlook. The majority of disenfranchised voters I encountered on November 6th were also African American.
But maybe there’s a disclaimer somewhere, to which I’m obviously not privy, that makes exceptions for the disenfranchisement of African American voters if the one who’s responsible for their disenfranchisement also happens to be African American.
Only Rep. Howard knows his reasons for publicly attacking and attempting to “trash” me. Clearly, the fact that we’re both African American doesn’t afford me the same deference that I’ve been asked to give.
But if I’m not mistaken, I was elected in 2010 and reelected in 2012 to represent all of the people of District 79 regardless of race, ethnicity or party affiliation. I wasn’t elected to protect and defend the County Elections Director. But then, neither was he. Perhaps after almost 2 decades, he has simply forgotten.
If only the old guard would stop taking political shots at me and put the focus back where it belongs…on the voters of Richland County and protecting the integrity of the electoral process, all of our constituents would be better served. As I continue to hear from voters across the county, I’m encouraged to stay the course and keep fighting for what’s right. And I will.
So with all due respect, Rep. Howard, you may wanna rethink your old guard tactics…you know, the ones that have been used to bully other elected officials into submission for years…well, they’re not working for you anymore.
It’s a new day in South Carolina! And I’m proud to belong to a new generation of leaders who happen to be progressive, independent thinkers and doers. I think Richland County and the state of South Carolina are ready for a change.
To fully understand the depth of this situation, you really must read the Free Times article referenced in Rep. Garrick's message. It is truly mind boggling that some members of the Richland County delegation appear reluctant to allow other members get real answers from those who should be providing them-- namely, Richland County Elections Director Lillian McBride and anyone else with knowledge of what went wrong. Go figure.
Thank you, Rep. Garrick, for keeping your constituents updated.