Palmetto Politics: Tim Scott faces onslaught of opposition for supporting Education Secretary nominee

January 28, 2017 GMT

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s office has been fielding thousands of phone calls from angry voters protesting his support of President Donald Trump’s nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

The South Carolina Republican said the vast majority of the calls have come from outside the state.

“They’re saying the exact same thing,” Scott told Palmetto Politics, “so they’re reading a script, and they all know who they’re calling.”

Education activists think DeVos has few, if any, credentials to lead the agency and worry she won’t prioritize investments for improving public schools in favor of charters.

Progressives see a more nefarious dynamic at play: DeVos as a school choice advocate but also a GOP mega-donor who has written huge checks to the Republican senators who will be voting on her nomination.

Scott is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and a fierce advocate of school voucher programs, which critics argue is tantamount to stripping federal funds from public institutions. He’s also a recipient of more than $49,000 from DeVos, who married into the billionaire business family at the helm of Amway, which produces lifestyle goods marketed by independent salespeople.


When Scott introduced DeVos at her confirmation hearing earlier this month, he spoke of a 30-year connection to the DeVos family, whom he credits for “teaching me how to sell” during his foray in business.

Plenty of Palmetto State voters would beg to differ that the groundswell of opposition to DeVos is coming only from out of state. There are also plans to gather at Scott’s North Charleston office on Tuesday to protest the senator’s support for a whole array of Trump Cabinet nominees, DeVos included.

In the meantime, Scott told Palmetto Politics he wasn’t concerned about, or surprised by, the opposition.

“Anything they can do to derail her is important for the teachers’ union. Not the teachers, but the unions, and it’s important to delineate the difference,” Scott said.

The HELP Committee’s vote on the DeVos nomination is currently scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Another GOP hopeful in 2018 race?

Looks like Henry McMaster will face competition from within his own party to keep the governor’s office in 2018.

Two Republicans — former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and former state health agency head Catherine Templeton — have filed campaign accounts with state election regulators. McMaster, who took office Tuesday, is expected to file an account soon.

Another GOP candidate who could join the race is Columbia-area businessman Joe Taylor, the state’s commerce secretary under Gov. Mark Sanford.

Taylor, a former home-building company owner who works in real estate development and business investment, told Palmetto Politics he has considered running for some time.


“I think there are some issues in the state of South Carolina that can be solved and that there is nobody looking after the little guy,” he said. “I think business folks bring hands-on experience.”

He said he wants tax changes to aid small businesses, stricter ethics rules for lawmakers and roads funding planning beyond debating taxes and fees.

“We’re just arguing about money,” he said. “We’re not arguing about how we should be fixing roads.”

Taylor, like others, will be watching how McMaster handles his first months in the office before deciding to enter the 2018 race.

“I do think people should have a choice,” he said.

Clyburn challenges Trump on voter fraud claims

President Donald Trump says he wants an investigation into so-called mass voter fraud in the 2016 election and U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., is going to give it to him.

Clyburn joined two other colleagues Wednesday in sending letters to all 102 chief election officials and each state’s attorney general asking for evidence of voting irregularities this past November.

Their effort, of course, isn’t to help Trump, but to beat him at his own game. Ever since entering office, Trump has continued to claim, with little supporting evidence, that millions of undocumented immigrants cast ballots for Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, thereby costing him the popular vote.

Clyburn’s gambit is that the election officials and attorneys general will not come back with any information that supports Trump’s claims.

“Republicans have used claims of widespread voter fraud to discriminate and restrict access to the ballot box for years,” Clyburn said in a statement. “President Trump’s bizarre obsession with disputing his massive popular vote loss only further undermines American democracy.”

The South Carolina Election Commission last week said they have no confirmation of any documented voter fraud incidents from the November election.

Robert Ford maintains inauguration attendance streak

Former Charleston state senator Robert Ford kept up his record of attending every presidential inauguration since 1964 by attending Trump’s event in D.C.

Ford said he wasn’t there as a Trump supporter, but because it’s “an American thing.”

He said despite some of Trump’s divisive rhetoric, he hoped the economic achievements of Trump’s presidency trickle down to help blacks and Hispanics at the bottom of the nation’s economic ladder.

“Everybody deserves a chance to govern,” he said.

Ford admitted his spot for Trump’s 17-minute inaugural speech wasn’t the best in D.C. — “a long way off,” he said, adding he wasn’t disappointed.

“It’s Trump,” he said. “He’s not not a normal every day type of politician.”

Ford left the Statehouse in 2013 and later pleaded guilty to ethics violations.

Emma Dumain, Andy Shain and Schuyler Kropf contributed.