In a little over three weeks, the South Carolina Republican Party will select a new chairman to replace outgoing chair Karen Floyd. At this point, Newberry County GOP Chairman Chad Connelly has the position wrapped up.
Last week, Greenville Country GOP Chair Patrick Haddon dropped out of the race for the state job – despite repeated claims to having the position “locked up” – and advanced the name of Orangeburg favorite son Bill Connor. An attorney, former candidate for Lt. Governor and Afghanistan veteran, Connor was caught off-guard by Haddon’s endorsement, but jumped in at the 11th hour, buoyed by calls and emails for him to enter the race. That decision has come way too late and since his announcement, Connor has had to face a barrage of endorsements for Connelly by some of the most powerful people in South Carolina.
Chad Connelly has officially been running for SCGOP Chair since January and, in doing so, has visited and spoken to every county party organization in the state. He has been tireless, an energy the next state chair is going to need. Had Bill Connor joined the race months ago, Connelly’s front-runner status may not have solidified. Philosophically, the two are identical and each have individual attributes that enhance their viability for the office. But it’s more than Connelly’s energy and Connor’s tardiness that gives Chad the advantage.
There has been the usual unfortunate whisperings and mud-slinging about several candidates for SCGOP Chair. Palmetto State politics is a voraciously carnivorous sport in which no one escapes without wounds. I suppose it’s what one expects in a state in which no matter whether one bleeds orange or garnet, the point is to draw blood and check the scoreboard at the end. Well, the scoreboard is showing a blow-out for Chad Connelly.
At this writing, Connelly has secured the endorsements of 56 SCGOP Executive Committee Members and scores of elected officials and party activists. Of them all, the ones that sealed Connelly’s selection have come in the last week.
State Treasurer Curtis Loftis and Congressmen Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney – three of South Carolina’s most powerful public figures – announced that they are backing Connelly since Bill Connor got into the race. Further, I believe it likely that Congressmen Joe Wilson, Trey Gowdy and Tim Scott will also support Connelly before or at the SCGOP State Convention on May 7.
These public seals of approval do more than state a preference; they form the beginnings of a much needed party unity and an institutional inclusion of the Tea Party folks. Loftis, Duncan and Mulvaney are champions of the Tea Party and their endorsement of Chad Connelly is a not-so-subtle notice that he is the person who can bring the Tea Party to the … well, the Party.
There is much Bill Connor can do for South Carolina and voters will give him that opportunity in the future, but this is not the job and now is not the time.
At the same time, South Carolina Republicans aren’t “settling” with Chad Connelly. He’s immensely qualified for the position of state chair and will certainly accomplish what is needed and expected.
So, is the SCGOP Chair race over?