• David M. Rubin

"ASSEMBLYMAN CHRIS MURPHY IS ABOUT TO BE TESTED (FINALLY)

The virtually uncontested political career of Republican Assemblyman Chris Murphy may, after eight brutal years, be nearing an end. He finally has a strong challenger for his 98th Assembly District seat: Sydney Clinton, who is running for the first time.


Murphy is the Chair of the Assembly's Judiciary Committee. In this capacity he was an architect of the draconian legislation passed by the Assembly last month that would outlaw all abortions in South Carolina except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Even the State Senate couldn't swallow this legislation---so far.


Murphy has risen through the ranks of South Carolina politics in typical privileged, White male fashion: 1990 Citadel graduate; 1995 Mississippi College of Law graduate; a stint as a local prosecutor; then on to the Dorchester County Council from 2002 through 2010.


Murphy served on the Council when developers ran rampant over the County and homeowners. Unchecked development permitted by Murphy's Council has created all sorts of problems: too much traffic, too few schools, too much flooding, too few remaining trees, no central planning, and developers accustomed to playing by their own rules. It will take a generation or two to fix these problems, if ever. You won't find these achievements on Murphy's resume.


He parlayed this "success" by entering the State Assembly. In 2010 he had a Democratic opponent, whom he defeated by a margin of 63% to 37%. He then ran unopposed in 2012. He had an opponent in 2014, winning by the same margin but with fewer total votes. Then he ran unopposed in 2016, 2018 and 2020.


Now Murphy is running as the phantom assemblyman. He barely shows up in Columbia. He missed 32 of 46 sessions in 2022, by far the most of any assemblyman. (The second place finisher missed 18.)


Given this pathetic attendance record, Murphy was forced to announce last month that he was entering an addiction treatment program for an unspecified period of time. He expected to return for the 2023 legislative session.


Not, however, if Ms. Clinton can stop him. She is putting up the first fight Murphy has faced in eight years.


The contrast between Murphy, the 54 year-old lawyer/legislator, and Clinton could not be sharper. She is 21, a student at the University of South Carolina, the daughter of military vets, savvy beyond her years, organized, and confident. If she can get 8000 votes, she can beat Murphy.


While reasonable people can debate whether Murphy's addiction problem and attendance record should have required him to resign, he cannot run away from his destructive legislative record.


In addition to shepherding his anti-abortion bill through the Assembly, he has sponsored many other pieces of misguided legislation. I could offer a hundred. Here are four:


1. He was behind the so-called Medical Ethics and Diversity Act (now law) that permits health care providers of all types to refuse services on the basis of their own religious beliefs. "As the right of conscience is fundamental," the law states, "no medical practitioner, healthcare institutions and healthcare payers should be compelled to participate in or pay for any medical procedure or prescribe or pay for any medication to which the practitioner or entity objects on the basis of conscience, whether such conscience is informed by religious, moral or ethical beliefs or principles."


It doesn't take much imagination to see how this might be applied to deny care or medications to racial and religious minorities, gays, transgendered persons, or anyone who looks crosswise at a pharmacist, doctor, nurse, or health insurer.


2. He has supported legislation to create "educational scholarship accounts" that would shift money from public schools--gut them, really--to fund charter schools, religious schools, private schools, online programs, and other options for K-12 students.


3. As a staunch Second Amendment absolutist, he helped pass South Carolina's Open Carry with Training Act. This permits anyone 21 or older to openly carry a concealable weapon if the applicant passes a simple background check and receives eight hours of training. One of the proponents of this bill said it makes South Carolina "a Second Amendment sanctuary state." How true.


4. Murphy supports the Instruction [in] American Founding Principles Act (H3002). This bill (not yet law) lays out in considerable detail precisely what teachers must teach about the colonial period, the American Revolution, the creation of the Constitution, and the "legacy" of the Revolution, with an emphasis on showing the evils of Communism.


Most of what this law mandates for instruction should be a part of any good history course. However, for a legislative body to dictate to teachers specifically what they must teach is one of the reasons teachers in this state are fed up with working conditions. It also has the smell of political indoctrination.


Murphy and most of his colleagues in the Assembly have no special expertise in education and no special knowledge of American history. They were not elected to write classroom syllabi to be imposed, by law, on overworked, underpaid teaching professionals.


Today Murphy and his Republican colleagues have focused on colonial history. Tomorrow it could be evolution and climate science. Then religious history....and so on. Murphy is clearly ripe for the taking, and Democrats must get behind Sydney Clinton's courageous effort to be the David who slays Goliath.


Clinton is one of four Dorchester area Democrats running for the Assembly for the first time. All are demonstrating that the days of Republicans running unopposed are over.


A second is ReZsaun Lewis, who is running against newcomer Robby Robbins in the 97th AD. https://www.rezsaunforsc.com/ Robbins has a poor record as a steward of the state's broken transportation system.


You can read about "Bad Roads Robby"here: https:// www.dorchesterdemocrats.com/post/bad-roads-robby-the-culpablecommish


A third is Ilene Davis https://www.davisforsc.com/, who is running in the 94th AD opposing Gil Gatch, the "pastor turned pol" whose legislative record is so meager one needs a microscope to find it. You can read about Gatch here: https://www.dorchesterdemocrats.com/post/gil-gatch-pastor-turned-pol


The fourth is Michelle Brandt, who is running in the 114th AD. https:// michelleforsc.com/ She is opposing Gary Brewer, a newcomer with all the so called qualifications the Republican Party seeks: Citadel grad, White, vice president for construction services at HDR Engineering. Brewer's major political accomplishment has been to plaster the district with lawn signs.


Flipping any or all of these four seats in the Assembly will send shock waves through Columbia. It will confirm that voters are fed up with Republican stewardship of a state that ranks near the bottom in education, public health, infrastructure, and respect for civil liberties, except gun rights. This election makes it crystal clear that the era of "unopposed" is officially over. Bring out the gloves.

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