Are The College Boys Conspiring?

Politics is the craziest thing.  You truly never know what (or who(m?)) to believe.  South Carolina is a great example of the politics of the surreal.  But that’s OK.  The thing is, the voters – citizens – are the ones getting punked. 

Election years are the most delightful part of the carnival of the farcical.  Accusations both subtle and .. not so, whip around the state at hypersonic speed.  Rumors are de rigueur in Palmetto State politics and shenanigans the etiquette of choice.  For example, we may be seeing classic South Carolina high jinks in the race for State Superintendent of Education.

We’ve already seen the attempt to smear candidate and teacher Kelly Payne by forces unknown.  In fact, speculation – and not without reason – points convincingly to Jay Ragley, campaign manager for Dr. Mick Zais. 

In the last week, I had conversations with a number of prominent South Carolina political players – some elected, some not.  When Ragley’s name came up, much like phlegm during cold season, there was mutual derision and not so occasional disgust.  With a reputation for the dirtiest of tricks, Ragley is the focus of political attention in what is becoming an unfortunately vicious campaign for Superintendent:

Multiple sources tell FITS that Zais’ campaign advisor (former SCGOP operative J.W. Ragley) was bragging loudly Wednesday about having hired a private investigator to obtain incriminating evidence that could be used against Payne.

The fact that Dr. Zais has hired Jay Ragley to run his campaign and implement his election strategy should be of considerable concern to voters.  Are these the tactics that can be expected should Dr. Zais become Superintendent?  Is a “Goon Squad” mentality the sort of “administrative experience” that will emanate from Senate Street in a Zais/Ragley administration? 

But, the besmirching of Kelly Payne is just one volley in what is beginning to appear to be an alliance between Dr. Zais’ campaign and that of Furman professor Dr. Brent Nelsen.  Jay Ragley has been curiously amicable with Nelsen at recent public events.  Sources noticed Zais passing notes to Nelsen after Payne spoke during a recent forum in Lancaster and both having been taking excerpts from Payne’s talking points and using them as their own.

Sources are also telling me that both the Zais and Nelsen campaign organizations are continuing to perpetuate rumors about Payne behind the scenes.

There is more than a bit of speculation that Zais and Nelsen are a one-two attempt to marginalize the Payne candidacy.  There are even bets that Nelsen, whose chances for Superintendent are just barely better than were his abandoned bid for governor, will drop out of the race near the primary and endorse Zais.  The strategy would be to “show unity” and, of course, avoid splitting votes between the two private college administrators.

Reggie Jackson famously said, “Fans don’t boo nobodies.”  Well, political campaigns don’t go to these extremes against opponents that are nobodies or pose no threat.  Kelly Payne’s campaign is gaining momentum and threatening the status quo – a status quo that has held down South Carolina’s student population for decades.



10 thoughts on “Are The College Boys Conspiring?

  1. Charlie:

    I’ve read some whoppers before, but this post is in a class all by itself. Here are my responses to your lies because quite frankly what you have written is total fiction.

    1. General Mick Zais, myself nor anyone associated with the Zais campaign had anything to do with any emails “leaked.”

    2. While I have doubts that you actually talked to anyone with any real knowledge of me or my reputation, being a dirty trickster isn’t in my nature or my behavior. Given the length of time I have worked in politics, if I was a practitioner of dirty politics I believe someone in the blogosphere would have called me out for it by now. But seeing as how you and Billy Folks are the only two to ever accuse me of such activity, it leads my to believe the two of you have started this rumor because both of you are supporters of Ms. Payne and believe it is a winning strategy. But I’ve got thick skin and disregard your false allegations because you have no idea who I am; you’re just shilling for your candidate as best you can.

    3. I have the entire Lancaster Young Republican candidate forum on video. There wasn’t any note passing at any point prior, during or after the forum between General Zais and Dr. Nelsen. We arrived just prior to the start of the forum, there wasn’t any note passing during the forum and after the forum every candidate was busy shaking hands. Your “sources” are wrong.

    4. I’ve been very amicable to Dr. Nelsen, Ms. Moffly and Dr. Burgess at all events. I’m amicable with almost every statewide candidate I see on the campaign trail. But after Ms. Payne and her paid bloggers/supporters accused me, my candidate and the Zais campaign of engaging in dirty campaign tactics which they know not to be true and have offered no proof of such activity, she showed her true self. I’ll make small talk with any of our Republican primary competitors except Ms. Payne. When she apologizes for these untrue personal attacks, I’ll be happy to make small talk with her.

    5. In the coming weeks we’ll see which campaigns gain momentum and which lose public supporters.

    6. I would encourage your dozens of readers to review the WORD radio survey.

    I think there are some telling differences between the candidates. You often times talk about changing the status quo and make determinations who is and isn’t the status quo. I would argue there is a test issue on the WORD survey that is particular telling between status quo and not status quo: Term Limits. The only candidate who supports term limits: General Mick Zais. There are other test questions you could use, but from the Tea Party folks, reform-minded Republicans and conservative independents I’ve talked to and heard from, term limits is a big issue for many. General Zais supports term limits; Ms. Payne does not. It’s there in black and white.

    7. Finally, I think you need to re-read your post about your question to the State Superintendent candidates regarding Rep. Nikki Haley’s amendment to the budget regarding school spending the classroom. Only one candidate directly answered your question: General Mick Zais, who wrote, “In particular, I support the budget proviso to require 70 percent of a school district’s state funding for students to follow them to their schools.” I don’t see anywhere in Ms. Payne’s written answer where she says she would have supported Rep. Haley’s amendment. She talks about getting dollars in the classroom, but maybe she thinks 50% is good enough? Or 60%? Or 30%? She never specifically says she supports the 70% amendment.

    Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your false accusations. I’m always game for a good, hard-fought debate on the issues, so maybe this will be your final failed attempt to smear my good name and that of my candidate. But if not, so be it, I’ll be back again to defend my integrity and the integrity of the next State Superintendent of Education: General Mick Zais.

    Happy Easter.



    • Jay! How good of you to drop by. And I thought you only read my posts “rarely.”

      Not being as smart as you are, maybe you can help me out… seeing as I have only “dozens of readers” (I think you’re being VERY generous), why would such a reputable politico as yourself, steering what you believe to be a front-running candidacy bother to respond so – verbosely?

      Your admitted lack of civility to Ms. Payne says quite a bit about you – things you didn’t intend. I’ve seen nothing from Ms. Payne’s campaign that impugns you or your self-described “integrity.” It’s hardly gentlemanly of you to be so rude to a lady. Methinks there is something more. Yes… cowardice, perhaps?

      You’ve got video? I would love to see it – unedited, of course.

      I’m glad you have “a thick skin,” Jay, because i expect we’ll cross comments again before this is all over. After a 732 word comment on an insignificant blog, I can’t imagine your response if you had a thin skin.


  2. Please note how Ragley brought up the specific accusation in his first paragraph, where the SPY had, in a gentlemanly manner, not done so.

    This is classic slime politics, and JW Ragley loves being called a Trickster. His life’s dream is to be a mini Lee Atwater and that shows the lack of character he is known for.

    Mick Zais has shown a lack of leadership, and the ability to govern the Pig also known as JW Ragley. It is costing Zais, though Zais may think he is getting more than he loses.

    Zais, after reading the first paragraph of the Pigs response, should terminate Ragley. He won’t, because Zais is a politician and moral behavior is not relevant to them.


  3. And why would the Zais manager reference a media source that his candidate is losing in?

    Atwater was diabolical, Ragley is just dumb.

    Superintendent of Education
    Elizabeth Moffly (R)
    159 Votes ( 8% )
    Brent Nelsen (R)
    494 Votes ( 26% )
    Kelly Payne (R)
    654 Votes ( 35% )
    Mick Zais (R)
    318 Votes ( 17% )
    Frank Holleman III (D)
    122 Votes ( 6% )
    106 Votes ( 6% )
    Gary Burgess (R)
    31 Votes ( 2% )


  4. You’re giving credibility to an internet straw poll where out-of-state voters can vote and anyone can vote multiple times? That’s real intelligent. Check out the WORD survey responses and see where the candidates stand on the issues.

    But if you really believe in internet straw polls, the Zais campaign won the first one hosted by Billy Folks.

    Mick Zais, 46%, 1243 votes
    Kelly Payne, 43%, 1155 votes
    Brent Nelsen, 11%, 290 votes


    • Will be sure to let Bob McClain at WORD know how “credible” you think WORD News Radio is. And furthermore I’ll be glad to let people know how you calculate crafting your judgments since FITS is so committed to data collection, vigorous analysis, and well-crafted arguments. Let’s see………..Christian news site or soft porn site…..hmmmmm. Ragley, such a novice.


  5. I am still trying to decide between supporting Zais or Payne. Those are the two that I am seriously considering for the Supt. of Edu. race. I am a strong proponent of comprehensive school choice, including vouchers (which, sadly, is still a pie-i n-the-sky proposal even in South Carolina). I’ve heard both candidates describe their position on school choice in print and in forums, and JW did a great job of laying out Zais’ approach in the comment section on another post on this blog (in response to my question in the comments). As far as I can tell, Zais has a very appealing and comprehensive school choice plan that stops short of advocating for K-12 vouchers, while Payne seems to support school choice including vouchers–although I heard her at times describe her school choice plan with no mention of vouchers or anything sounding like vouchers. So basically no candidate is speaking the language that someone like me would like to hear.

    Sometimes it’s hard to believe that in a conservative/Republican state like ours, the Democrat candidates for Supt. of Edu. can run every four years on the same tired (and factually inaccurate) line of “no vouchers or tax credits because it drain money from our public schools blah blah blah”–and they come out as winners. Holding on to the Dept. of Edu. for the past 12 years is probably their greatest modern-day victory that the state Democrat Party can point to. I refuse to believe that’s because the average South Carolinian lines-up more with the Democrat Party platform and approach to education policy. Count me as one who believes the problem is that the Republican candidates, along with the party and other GOP elected officials, just don’t do a good job at all of explaining why our approach of choice and competition is just better.


  6. Garnett, Thanks for the report – we’re at one of those points where the BS needs to en and we need to find the right person for the job. Please allow me the liberty to jump on your bandwagon:

    Mr. Ragley,

    We’ve had this discussion before but I’ll bring it up again; you need to proof read your candidate’s web site. Quoting:
    “Mick has been a conservative and a Republican his adult life.”
    We’re talking about the preeminent job in education, lets act like we have some, education that is.
    As someone who has earned the honorific I use as a “blog name”, I value integrity above all clever political machinations. Try playing this one straight. Lay out the facts and leave it at that, you have a solid, if dull candidate. Dr. Zais is easily the most experienced and accomplished candidate in this field, build on that fact and quit trying to play political games, I was a fan of Atwater’s primarily because he knew when to quit the BS and get busy on the record.

    I know of Dr. Zais form my own civilian career in higher education and am impressed with what he has done, particularly at Newberry – I will be significantly less impressed if it comes out that Garnet has the general truth accurately reported here. My experience is that he generally gets it right.

    Try reading what I wrote about the candidates and go from there:


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