Welcome to South Carolina! I want to advise you of something as you stump for votes while enjoying a wide variety of Bar-B-Que and country cooking in the Palmetto state: you have your work cut out for you. Not that there’s anything wrong with Iowa or New Hampshire. God bless their tolerance for winter weather, because a few snow flurries cause chaos and threats of runs on the grocery store here. You are in the south now, and the game has changed. In short, you’re going to have to tread carefully and walk a tightrope to catch voters here. Why? Let me give you a couple of examples that are taking place across in and near the Capitol City of Columbia:
First, we’ll take on a local school district attempting to build a new elementary school. It’s the first school they’ve built in decades with a desire to accommodate the growing Hispanic community in the area. The problem: the land is adjacent to a neighborhood for retirees, and the residents of that community are petitioning the district to build a smaller school than planned, which will force many of the older schools to stay operational and deny them much needed facility upgrades. The district needs to accommodate developing technology and a growing population, the parents want a better school for their children, and the retirees want to limit the traffic and noise near their home. How to you achieve all of these goals without alienating a group of voters?
Second, let’s talk about the economy. Washington D.C. tells us that it’s rebounding, but businesses have been moving out of the downtown area because they can’t afford rent. They’re taking to the expanding suburbs, and even moving into houses in residential neighborhoods to keep things moving and to have adequate parking for their clients, because parking downtown is an expensive yet vanishing commodity. The University of South Carolina and attorneys are the only ones that can afford downtown space. The rebounding economy hasn’t found its way to Columbia as inflation continues to rise faster than salaries, and people from the top to the bottom of the economy are looking for ways to cut costs. What are you going to do to stimulate our economy: for the farmers in the rural areas; for the plants in small towns; for the sales and service people; for education; for technology; for healthcare; for emergency services; for communication; for tourism; for trade; for freight and shipping; for executives; for business large and small; for retirees; for real estate; for travel; for moving people and commodities; for construction; for manual labor; for childcare; for eldercare; for law; for the homeless; for the poor; for the rich; for the shrinking middle class; for the local economy; for the state economy; and for all the others that fall in the wide net of South Carolina citizens?
I believe this illustrates the challenge of reaching voters in this small but diverse state. You can’t cater to one group, without alienating another. We have a mixture of it all, from children to college students to adults across all races, professions, trades, ages, and stations of life. Our concerns, priorities, interests, and loyalties are as diverse as our people. Be wary of the appearance of “taking sides” or you’ll lose votes from a significant cross section of constituents. We are a glimpse of the diversity of the United States of America.
You have a wide net to cast in a small state. Good luck walking the tightropes of South Carolina voters as we prepare to voice our opinion from the primaries to the general elections on November 8, 2016.