The ‘Other Offices’
As the political eyes of the nation are focused on key Senate races and whether Republicans will win the 38 seats they need to rule the House, other races are beginning to merge. These are the contests for statewide offices beneath the governorships—lieutenant governor, treasurer, attorney general, and similar positions.
Not only are these offices the historic “bench” for future candidates for governor and senator, but they also increasingly provide key players on in national public policy. Earlier this year, Indiana State Treasurer Richard Murdock launched a lawsuit to stop the federal auto bailout on constitutional grounds. More recently, Republican attorneys general from more than 20 states have joined in a federal suit to challenge the legal grounds for the healthcare “reform” package passed by Congress and Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder last month made national news when he spearheaded a lawsuit on behalf of people who are actually going to suffer as a result of actual people of the passage of Obamacare.
Here is a look at a few of the “other offices” up for election this year and the conservatives vying for them.
South Carolina’s Other Wilson
Almost without exception, the question that comes up for former prosecutor Alan Wilson from South Carolina voters who meet him for the first time is whether the Republican nominee for state attorney general is related to Rep. Joe Wilson (R.-S.C.).
Yes, 37-year-old Alan is the oldest of the congressman’s four sons. (Alan’s biological father, Mike McCrory, was killed in a plane crash when the boy was two and his mother Roxanne later married Joe Wilson, who adopted and raised Alan.) It appears very likely that the relationship with the conservative lawmaker best known for shouting, “You lie!” during an address to Congress by President Obama was helpful to Alan in winning the GOP nomination for attorney general with 59% of the vote over a wealthy lawyer. Joe Wilson may have had an effect on another nomination battle. Fellow Rep. Bob Inglis, who was the lone South Carolina House GOPer who voted to condemn Wilson for the outburst, lost renomination by a landslide margin to Trey Gowdy, who defended Wilson.
“I’m sure it didn’t hurt to be Joe Wilson’s son,” Alan Wilson told me during a recent visit to HUMAN EVENTS, “and I love and support my father. But that’s really where it ends. He’s primarily a corporate lawyer and legislator. I’ve just spent my entire career as a prosecutor and law enforcer. That’s why I’m running for attorney general.”
In opposing Democrat Matthew Richardson, Wilson cites that background as assistant attorney general and assistant solicitor in Lexington County. Whether it was white-collar crimes, domestic violence or drug related law-breaking, Wilson has prosecuted the case on behalf of the Palmetto State or his home county. Like outgoing State Atty. Gen. Henry McMaster, he supports the lawsuit of the states’ attorneys general against Obamacare.
And in keeping with a family tradition, Wilson is a veteran. Having spent 14 years in the South Carolina National Guard, Maj. Wilson received the Combat Action badge for service in Iraq and has been awarded the Palmetto Cross, his state’s highest military award.
I asked Wilson, if he becomes the state’s top lawman, will he follow in the footsteps of his two immediate predecessors and run for governor someday? Without hesitation, he replied: “I haven’t thought about it. All I want is to be in charge of South Carolina’s law enforcement, period.”
(Wilson for Attorney General, P.O. Box 1453, Columbia, S.C. 29202; 803-553-4630; www.WilsonforAG.com)
Getting Connecticut’s Books in Order
Newington, Conn.—Although Connecticut has elected Republicans as governor and lieutenant governor since 1994, the no Nutmeg State GOPer has held any of the other four statewide constitutional offices in 12 years.
But like a lot of things in politics, this may change in 2010. One of the intriguing contests in Connecticut is the state treasurer race, in which three-term Democratic incumbent Denise Nappier is being challenged by conservative Newington Mayor Jeff Wright, a financial planner by trade.
“We’re running against a policy of TBS—tax, borrow, and spend,” Wright told me September 10 over breakfast at the Olympia Diner where he bussed tables as a senior at Newington High School. “Our state has $19 billion in unfunded liabilities and has borrowed another $1 billion for operating expenses. Studies have shown that similar indebtedness will force Illinois into bankruptcy in 2018 and Connecticut and New Jersey into bankruptcy in 2019. Something has to be done, and he treasurer has the sole fiduciary responsibility to deal with these problems.”
As to how he plans to deal with this coming crisis, former U.S. Marine Lance Corp. Wright said that the state needs to cap taxes (as neighboring Massachusetts did more than a decade ago) and “take a good long look” at some of the 529 programs the state is funding now. In addition, Wright denounced the concept his opponent has long championed of investing the state’s money in portfolios on the basis of their “social agenda of responsibility.”
“Connecticut invested in New Horizons because it represents many women and minorities,” he noted, “and New Horizons’ portfolio is now down 30% from last year. I would have no agenda of our state’s investing other than in the highest possible return with the lowest possible risk.”
Twice elected in a town (population: 25,000) where more than half the voters are registered as independents, Wright has a strong base among his fellow Republican mayors throughout Connecticut. In addition, former World Wrestling Entertainment head Linda McMahon’s candidacy for the Senate is energizing Republicans statewide. And as Wright proudly noted, “Linda is appearing at an event with me. She will win and help the rest of us win as well.”
Six Foot Eight And 28
When Jason Plummer won the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor of Illinois in February over five opponents, the first thing that most of the press reported was that the newly minted nominee for the second highest office in the Prairie State was 27 years old.
“But I was also one of only two candidates with business experience,” said Plummer, an executive with a family-owned lumber company who has since turned 28. “And I was also one of two candidates who had never held office before. But at a time when our state has a $13 billion deficit—$6 billion of it owed from last year—a political outsider with some knowledge of economic development looked pretty good to voters.”
Plummer had originally planned to face another surprise winner, millionaire pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen. But Cohen was forced off the Democratic ticket by party leaders following charges of using violence with a former girlfriend and was replaced by Sheila Simon, daughter of late Sen. (1984-96) Paul Simon (D.-Ill.). An embittered Cohen is now running as an independent for governor against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn and GOP nominee and State Sen. Bill Brady.
Under Illinois law, Brady and Plummer run as a ticket against Quinn and Simon. But like vice presidential candidates, the lieutenant governor candidates debate on issues and, as Plummer told me, “We are polar opposites. She wants a huge tax increase and I support Bill Brady on cutting state expenditures by 10% across the board and dealing with Medicaid and pension liability reform without any tax increase. She says we need to drive more revenue to Springfield and I say we need to downsize and let towns and counties make more decisions.”
He added that “although social issues don’t come up much, I’m sure we differ on them as well. I’m pro-life and believe marriage is between a man and a woman.”
Despite his youth, University of Illinois graduate and U.S. Navy Reservist Plummer knows quite a bit about conservative politics and policy. As Republican chairman of Madison County, he helped run campaigns in his state’s sixth largest county. And as an intern at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, he was further grounded in conservative policy.
The other much-noted fact about Plummer aside from his age is his height—6-foot-eight inches. And, before I could ask the question, he answered it: “Yes, I played basketball.”
(Plummer for Illinois, P.O. Box 1025, Edwardsville, Ill., 62025; 866-216-4805; jasonplummer.com)