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An Open Letter to Nikki Haley from a Friend

September 15, 2010

(Note, this letter is NOT designed to advise an experienced campaigner and SC legislator, who knows all of this. Rather it is intended to reinforce her good instincts in dealing with a host of out-of-state advisors.  Is there any doubt that her “decision” to back away from Sanford’s Executive Budget was the work of campaign handlers? It was so out-of-character for someone who has staked her political career on her knowledge of business and  sound accounting practices.  It could be that hubris has overtaken some advisors who may have lost sight of the goal, to wit, to save our State from bankruptcy and already are focusing on the vice-presidency in 2012 – to the detriment of the gubernatorial candidate and to our state.)

Dear Nikki,

The dust-up over the Executive Budget is not just a tempest in a teapot; there are real issues at stake for both the short and long term. Well-done, the Executive Budget is the best bully pulpit you can have to advance your (our) goals.

We hope and expect you will be the next Governor of South Carolina.  Like all Governors, you will be held responsible for the fiscal health of your state.  Likewise, you will be forced to create budget messages. As an accountant, this is no problem for you. Some Governors prepare more complete budget proposals than others, but ALL lay out their plans in advance, and I know you will do this as well. Governors also try to retain the final say on the budget.  The Constitutional reason is this: while legislators represent districts, only the executive (in the budget process) represents the whole state.  It is thus the DUTY of the executive to take this responsibility and to do it as thoroughly as possible.

Given the politics of it, I know walking this back might be awkward, but worth it.  This is no light campaign issue that can be re-negotiated later.  If you stake out this position now,  you give up your primary tool as governor.  It is for this reason that Mark Sanford weighed in right away on your concession to give up this most valuable tool, and was right to do so.

Students of politics have learned a few things about how statesmen advance their ideas. For example, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton came to the Constitutional Convention with well-thought out plans.   It is no surprise that their ideas, for the most part, were implemented into the final document.  Being the person with the plan enables a statesman to reach his/her goals. That’s why all governors have to have budget plans and the more thorough, the better.

Mark Sanford’s problems with the legislature were not caused by his Executive Budget per se, but they were aggravated by it, primarily because the budget and its treatment by legislators exposed the fact that most of our representatives were determined to spend every dime possible on their special-interest priorities. What was good for the State was not good for them personally. It also showed the true conservative bent of the Governor. As a result, people still prefer Mark Sanford to the General Assembly; and not just because of his conservative politics, but also because he talks to them, not down to them, and is more accessible. They see him as being on their side. Unfortunately, prior to his election as Governor, he had limited political experience in the State, and made some early mistakes. However, his mistakes were nothing compared with the error of over-spending and not saving for the rainy days that are now upon us.  You have the experience to use the same fiscally conservative approach and go further with it than Sanford.  But you will have to have an Executive Budget. I am confident you will.

Mark Sanford was like a new professor on an old campus who becomes popular with the students because he puts teaching first,  rather than all the other things a professor can do, many of them more fun and less work.  Often such professors fail to earn tenure because they make their colleagues look bad by comparison.  Similarly, Mark put the state’s fiscal well-being first, and in doing so, made the legislators look bad.  They won’t forgive him for that, and neither will they forgive you for doing the same thing with respect to recorded votes.  But the legislature is not who is electing you.

Accommodating a fiscally irresponsible legislature will not benefit you or your(our) agenda. In fact, people forget how far Mark and Jenny Sanford went to appease senior members of the General Assembly. For example, Jenny Sanford recounts that when she was the Governor’s Chief of Staff, the couple agreed to allow legislators to meet with him without her presence, since several legislators had objected to her being there.  Such an accommodation got the Sanfords exactly nowhere.  Stooping to conquer works well some places; the General Assembly is likely not one of them.

Also beware of advice from out-of-state political operatives. They may know how to raise money and make ads, but can’t be as familiar as you are with South Carolina’s truly unique political culture. Follow your own good instincts when it comes to what you know,  that is, the people, the programs, and how things work here in South Carolina.  You will need an Executive Budget.  Don’t unilaterally disarm yourself before you are even elected and give up what will be your strongest tool in the battles ahead.


Christina Jeffrey, Ph.D.

Spartanburg, S.C.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim O'Reilly permalink
    September 15, 2010 9:33 AM

    Couldn’t agree more. Executive Budgets are a necessary tool for a legislature that too often spends like drunken sailors.

  2. September 15, 2010 9:41 AM

    A quick look at this campaign reveals a move toward hyper-insulation of the candidate – a huge mistake in a state that is used to seeing ALL the presidential candidates up close and personal every four years as they stump for the “first in the South” presidential primary.

    See this:

  3. Upstate student permalink
    September 15, 2010 9:45 AM

    Nikki has huge support, but it is soft. She is, afterall, a new face to most people. Supporters and media have been offended by her staff. The video illustrates the problem she is having.

  4. Goper permalink
    September 15, 2010 9:46 AM

    Call us spoiled, but it is part of the political culture here. A “native-son” candidate is expected even more to connect to the people. Isolating her will hurt her in SC and if she loses here (still a real possibility given the Trial lawyer machine support for her opponent), her career is definitely stalled. Bottom line, a candidate needs her base, even more than she needs a particular staff member, especially one who is ham-handed in his handling of the press!

  5. Old-timer permalink
    September 15, 2010 9:48 AM

    Look at the Guiliani and Floyd campaigns. These candidates were more isolated and more handled than SC voters are accustomed to. And they both under-performed. Guiliani even had support at Bob Jones University, but blew it in S.C. Coming out of the primary, Floyd had an overwhelming advantage over the Democrat, but failed to win. I think Haley is using the same consultant. He needs to come to SC and mingle a while with ordinary voters. Then he might see what Haley needs to do to win.

  6. September 15, 2010 10:22 AM

    Consultants are a pain in the ass and a two edged sword. I can think of absolutely no reason to employ an out of state consultant if you want to win in SC.

    Nikki appears to have backed off on supporting school choice, not exactly the way to fire up the base of the GOP. She needs to clarify that pronto. Nikki and Mick Zais need to lay out some clear plans to improve education in SC. (The Democrat/teacher’s union formula of throwing more money into a failed system is the dead wrong approach.)

    As a Legislator, Nikki comes to the Governor’s office with more understanding of the Legislative process than Mark Sanford had. She is to be commended for wanting to have a great relationship with the General Assembly so she can get the people’s business done. However, she needs to re-think giving up on an executive budget proposal as a tool in the process. Be more diplomatic than Mark Sanford was; and make every effort to work with the legislature; but in the final analysis, she is expected to lead, not follow, the General Assembly.

    She also needs to always remember at all times that former Governor Carroll Campbell did a huge disservice to the GOP and to the people of South Carolina. His horrible mistake after the GOP electoral sweep in 1994 was in recruiting a lot of disgruntled Democrats to switch parties in exchange for power and patronage. These new “Republicans” continued to think, tax, and spend, just as they had as Democrats.

    The people were told the lie that the Democrat party had moved too far left for them and these were “conservative Democrats” (an oxymoron!)who were embracing our philosophy of limited government and economic frugality. In reality, they were, in many cases, simply malcontents and opportunists who were not going to get power and committee chairmanships remaining inside the Democrat party. The Saul on the road to Damascus conversions were in reality a slick power grab. In the process, Gov. Carroll Campbell gave away the store and moved the GOP far to the left to accommodate these “Republicans” in name only.

    There are a bunch of these good old boys still wearing an R after their name and voting just exactly the way they always did as Democrats. Nikki, like Mark Sanford, is going to have to stand up to this crowd and advance the GOP agenda and platform. We as grassroots Republicans need to know now that we can count on her to do that.

    She must listen to the grassroots of the party and NOT to the damn out of state consultant! George Patton was asked during the Battle of the Bulge how he could disengage 3rd Army from a major mid winter campaign, turn it 90 degrees, drive half way across Europe in the dead of winter, and then engage and destroy a numerically superior German army, when every other American and British General had thought the task impossible? Patton famously replied “I am the only son-of-a-bitch who understands we can still lose this war!”

    Nikki, we can still lose the Governor’s election to the commiecrat puppet of the teacher’s unions and trial lawyers. Those people are evil, well organized, ruthless, crave power, and will be very well funded. SC Democrats are the Nazis in the winter of 1944 and your race is the Battle of the Bulge. George S. Patton and Mark Sanford were not exactly famous for diplomacy and were hated by the leftist establishment and the media; but they knew how to win!

  7. Barbara W. permalink
    September 15, 2010 12:14 PM

    Hey Jeffrey,
    I just finished reading Christina’s ‘Open Letter to Nikki’. Hopefully Nikki will welcome Christina’s friendship and advice. Anyway, it made perfect sense to me. Much better to have the plan all spelled out and ready before the time comes to implement it, so there is no time wasted later. And I especially smiled at Christina’s grasp of dealing with the legislature.
    Thanks for all you do,
    Barbara W.

  8. ava permalink
    September 19, 2010 7:14 AM

    Dr. Jeffry,
    You obviously don’t know the real Mark Sanford. He’s mean, cheap and more than frugal. Get sick, you’ll find out.
    SC cannot tolerate a second Sanford Maam.


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