Editorial: Local and county campaigns have become nasty
Social media has been abuzz with condemnations and full-throated support. Newspapers including this one, have attempted to cover the “story” with the barest of facts that are available. Political websites have gone full bore with little worry about facts or fairness. The Laurens County sheriff is accused of sending thousands of text messages to a woman who is not his wife. He just so happens to be running for re-election to a fifth four-year term on June 14. His opponent in the Republican primary has had documents from his 1986 divorce resurface (they were sent to us four years ago when he also challenged the sheriff’s bid for re-election). If you don’t think the viciousness of national political races hasn’t trickled down to the local level, you’d better think again. And no one should be surprised. National elections have been fraught with salaciousness every cycle since Lyndon Johnson was challenged by Barry Goldwater in 1964. But supporters of John Quincy Adams called Andrew Jackson’s mother a prostitute in the 1828 presidential campaign. And, for good measure, they said Jackson’s wife was an adulteress. Then, we began to see the “dirt” in state races certainly by the turn of the century. Donny Wilder, one of the most honorable people to ever represent us in Columbia, came back to Clinton after 10 years in the S.C. House of Representatives in 2002 because partisan bickering was preventing work on substantive issues. The last two mayoral elections in Clinton have been unusually contentious – more by the supporters of the candidates than the candidates themselves. Laurens County Sheriff’s races got “dirty” before any of the other local races. Allegations of dirty politics, political tricks, thefts of campaign signs, accusations of corruption go all the way back to some of the challenges to R. Eugene Johnson’s long-time reign as sheriff. There have been times since the 1960s when Laurens County voters decided to oust a sitting sheriff. But, for the most part, incumbent sheriffs have withstood the onslaught of gutter politics. And the incumbents and their emotional supporters have not been without blame by any stretch of the truth. The current campaign for sheriff in Laurens County has brought the shenanigans to embarrassing and vulgar depths. This newspaper and other newspapers and media outlets received copies of documents alleging to be text messages between the current sheriff and a female admirer. We confess we’ve not taken the time to read them all, but many of the ones we have read are vulgar and disgusting. We further confess we have no idea if the sheriff actually took part in the text exchanges with the woman. If he did, he’s a repulsive human and doesn’t deserve another day in office. If he didn’t, he has some brutal enemies who will stop at nothing to embarrass him. Unfortunately, Laurens County is again being embarrassed by news involving our elected officials. It’s far from being the first time and we don’t think for a minute it will be the last time. So far, both the sheriff and his opponent are keeping mum and we don’t think the “sexting” allegation will become an issue in the legitimate campaign between the two men. The entire episode is indecorous. The people of Laurens County deserve better. But we won’t get it until we demand it from our elected officials, those who run against them and the supporters on both sides.