Activists in the Horry County Republican Party wanted to become the 8th county to censure Sen. Lindsey Graham for his liberal voting record, but entrenched members of the Party's establishment stopped their plans by launching a campaign to protect the two-time incumbent Senator.
South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore, who recently defended Graham by calling him a "traditional conservative" on MSNBC, took sides and condemned the censure movement in an email. He stated that a censure shouldn't be used as a mechanism to voice disagreement for one's voting record. He noted that there were no provisions in the Party rules that allowed censures and stated that they do not promote Party unity.
The Chairman of the Horry County GOP, Robert Rabon, and elected officials, including state Sen. Greg Hembree and Rep. Alan Clemmons, signed a document condemning the move to censure Graham, which was seen as very intimidating by the Republican members who pushed for the censure.
During the meeting, Sen. Hembree, argued against the censure, stating that members shouldn't censure Graham because a censure is not stated in the U.S. Constitution as a method to hold elected officials accountable. Sen. Hembree implied that if the Party voted for the censure, it would compromise the relationship they currently have with Graham, a senator that sends the county millions of federal dollars.
"Horry County is under represented in Columbia. … We don't have enough representation for the people that we need to provide services for," said Hembree. "This is not the time to be divided over this censure. Take action at the ballot box like the Constitution says."
In an exclusive interview with Joshua Cook, Joe Dugan, the executive producer of last month's South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention, said, "…They did not even allow a vote on a censure. They slipped something through at the very beginning to peddle something else, much less of a charge. Nobody was ready for that… it just got pushed right through …"
Dugan told Cook that he resigned as precinct president "as a result of this fiasco."
"What we're seeing here is what we are seeing nationwide in a microcosm … this is just like the Chamber of Commerce saying they're raising $50 million to defeat Tea Party candidates across the country. These people are sticking where the money is and have lost their principles in my opinion."
"You don't put a Senator in office for six years and then have to keep quiet about it while he takes another vote against the principles he was elected on. That's not what the Constitution meant, and that's the way it was being portrayed tonight," said Dugan.
Cook asked, "It seems there was a call to unify behind the status quo. Do you agree with that?"
Dugan answered, "Absolutely. They want us to be unified behind silence, and silence is what gets us into this mess that we're in."
Dugan joins the growing list of S.C. grassroots leaders leaving leadership positions in the Republican Party.
Despite the failure to get a censure of Graham passed, grassroots activists are calling this a victory.
"This whole process forced elected officials to go on record in their support for Graham," said grassroots activist Nick Katsanos.
Katsanos told Cook that he confronted one of the elected officials who fought against the censure. "You are now on record as a Lindsey Graham shield. Your behavior is showing this young man (referring to his son) that it's ok to do wrong as long as you have people covering you."
Activists believe that this process has helped them build a stronger coalition within the Party and helped them identify new activists willing to fight against the status quo.
Is Lindsey Graham losing his grip on power in SC? Tea Party activists say yes, but Chairman Rabon disagrees.
Cook asked if Lindsey Graham is in trouble:
"I don't think so," said Rabon. "Here is the reason I say that. To the point, none of the four has made the point that they can do better that what he has done. If somebody has got a better idea, can do a better job, can deliver more than he can, and they sell the people on, they will get the vote. Until they prove they are better, it's his to lose."
Johnnie Bellamy, former 2011-13 Chairman of the Horry County GOP, told Cook:
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"I led and worked a phone bank for Lindsey back in 2009. The responses then were 50% negative from angry constituents, and now the ground swell has advanced to large negatives. But folks don't want to speak out. They all know they will be reprimanded if they speak out against Lindsey. His statewide paid field operatives and support teams are numerous and always watching out. I as an innocent activist was harshly reprimanded by two individuals for just forwarding an email that I received about Lindsey. I was shocked at the quick, harsh and demanding responses.
On Monday night at the HCGOP Executive Committee meeting, why did it take 7 lawyers, Horry State Senators and House Members, Horry County Council Members and Myrtle Beach City Council members to send a signed petition, attend the Executive Committee meeting and speak on his behalf to defeat the motion to censure Senator Graham?
That says a lot.
Sen. Hembree, Rep. Clemmons, City Councilman Randal Wallace and Horry County Council Member Al Allen emphatically insisted that voting for censure would divide the Party.
There was a lot of talk about unity of the Party but the founders united on common principles. It is so ironic that the Horry delegation and HCGOP leaders have this principle backwards. We unite on principles, and the party totally missed that tonight and divided it further. The censure under principles would have ignited and brought the party together. Instead they drove out those who are fighting for freedom rather than Party. It will take the Party years to grow from this muted state and most likely new leadership, but we do not have years as a nation to wait on people to gain the conviction of liberty above Party. America is facing a 'gut-check' tipping point, and the HCGOP and Horry delegation insisted we bypass reality based reasoning and focus on 'normalcy bias.'
It appears to me, the Republican Creed suggests that those who oppose the censure are seeking the security and safety of 'unity' rather than taking the calculated risk of building a stronger party based on a firmer foundation of strong conservative principles for liberty.
Intimidation was used on the HGOP Executive Committee by our delegation choosing a poor leadership stance and a firm control stance. I believe they were mandated to be at that meeting by Lindsey and the SC State House.
Additionally, the tragedy and temporary disillusionment came when the votes were cast and our yeah votes changed to nay votes. The intimidation worked, and the weak fell like sheep."
"A coward dies a thousand times before his death, but the valiant taste of death but once. It seems to me most strange that men should fear, seeing that death, a necessary end, will come when it will come." – William Shakespeare