November 15, 2010
Dist. 85 SC House Representative Chip Huggins obviously thinks he owns his SC House seat. While obstinately refusing to back down from his commitment to voting for Bobby Harrell for Speaker, Chip reacted very badly to a constituent’s comment and threatened him (by obvious implication in the context of the conversation) in his stating that he knew someone in the Sheriff’s Department.
The audio with video text commentary by me (for what it is worth =:>) is available here:
The audio linked above is from a telephone conversation a constituent had with Rep. Chip Huggins on October 12th. It was legally recorded according to South Carolina State law. The full audio was available to me and I edited it down to more digestible chunks regarding the points made here.
Near the beginning of the conversation in Video 1: Segment 1, Huggins begs the constituent to “unelect” him if he’s not doing the right things. Fair enough, sir! That is the democratic part of our representative republic and is certainly a good way to get rid of those elected officials who have not performed as expected or desired.
Unfortunately, Chip’s memory is very short. A little later in the conversation, the constituent tells him point blank that if Chip votes for Bobby Harrell for Speaker, he’ll see about getting someone to run against him in the primary. The constituent then added that even if he couldn’t get Chip unelected doing that, he’d at least force him to spend most of his campaign fund to win the primary.
Apparently, that was the wrong thing to say. As Jim Croce might have put it:
“And they say you don’t tug on Superman’s cape
You don’t spit into the wind
You don’t pull the mask off an ‘ole Lone Ranger
And you don’t mess around with Chip Huggin’s campaign fund.”
Okay, that last line doesn’t quite fit the rhythm of the song but hopefully you get the idea of Chip’s arrogant attitude.
“You’re now threatening me . . . ?” Chip asks, apparently outraged at the idea. He then quickly goes on the offensive and asks whom the constituent works for. What was Chip going to do with that information? Tell the constituent’s boss that one of his employees was being uppity with him?
“Well, I don’t like threats, I can tell you that,” Chip continues. “I’ve been in South Carolina too long to like threats.”
I don’t get the connection he’s trying to make there unless he’s trying to say he lives in a politically dirty and dangerous environment where threats are followed through with.
The constituent then denies that he was “threatening” him (and later on more fully explains that he was just talking about the only recourse citizens have in getting rid of an unwanted politician and that if Chip takes that as a “threat,” then so be it).
Chip then, believe it or not, goes on to threaten the constituent: “I can tell you I have the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office watching [unintelligible] me–“
Constituent responds: “So you’re threatening me . . . ”
“No-no-no-no-no-no-no!” He exclaims and then goes on to fill out in more detail the obviously implied threat and, once again, denies that he’s threatening him: “All I’ve said is I’ve got Officer [Sheriff’s Deputy] Stacy Gadson right–and he’s-he’s-he’s and I–and I–anyway–I can assure you I don’t make threats. And–that is not me and I-I-I didn’t do it.”
Constituent: “Well that’s very good! I’m very thankful that you don’t because that could be problematic under the law for you. So, all I’m saying is that, don’t expect an easy ride if you make the wrong decision [voting for Bobby Harrell as Speaker]. Don’t expect to go unchallenged. And don’t expect to have your campaign funds intact because you haven’t had a good challenger. That’s all I’m saying. It doesn’t take that many people to change . . . the election.”
Chip Huggins denies it repeatedly within the same breath but the implications were obvious and ominous. He seemed to take the mention of a challenge that, even if unsuccessful, drains his campaign fund as a personal threat. If he’s depending on his government salary, perquisites, and off-the-record vote-selling to make a living, then perhaps he’s right to feel afraid for his job. His life and health are hardly being put at risk, however and to respond at that point in the conversation with any mention of someone he knows in the Sheriff’s Department is obviously meant to imply a threat, to a reasonable mind, against the constituent.
Furthermore, Chip makes it sound as if Deputy Gadson is his goon who protects him from uppity constituents who “threaten” him with the democratic process. I sincerely hope this is not the case but Chip never did make it sound like anything else. And later, in Video 2, Segment 3, Chip again refers to being “threatened.” There he eventually claims that “threatened” is not the right word but it sure sounds like he meant exactly that the whole time and even obviously struggles to find a word to replace it.
Less dramatic, but also interesting in the second and third videos, are the many complaints Rep. Chip Huggins has about Speaker Bobby Harrell’s leadership. He even goes so far as to complain about the Robert Cahaly robo-calls that Harrell commissioned well before Cahaly was arrested for making other calls of that nature. Chip complains bitterly about Bobby Harrell but acts as if he has no choice but to vote for him. Is Chip Huggins suffering more from venality or cowardice?
The constituent is consistent in insisting that Huggins vote against Bobby Harrell which right now means voting for Rep. Ralph Norman who is (the only challenger to Harrell so far) running for Speaker. He states that he also wants the vote to be out in the open so that the public can know what is going on in the caucus meeting. That way he can know how Huggins votes.
Listening to this audio over and over has left me with a really awful feeling in my gut. How do people like this get elected? If Huggins started out as a pretty good guy, how did the evil powers that be convince him to go over to the dark side? Did someone make him an “offer he couldn’t refuse?”
Rep. Chip Huggins obviously acts as though he’s part of an organized crime mob. Considering the billions of tax payer dollars at the General Assembly’s disposal with no real checks and balances in this structurally backwards, legislatively-controlled state government, perhaps we, the people of South Carolina should consider them as outlaws and seek in earnest to remove as many of the bad players from office as soon as possible.
In conjunction with that, we should immediately start working to strip away all the excessive powers conferred upon the General Assembly so many years ago and put them back into a more normal relationship with the executive and judicial branches of government. Currently, we are the oddball state in that regard among the fifty in the union. It’s long past time for citizens to take charge of our government again and, through law and constitutional amendments, to get rid of many of the governmental mechanisms that allow the General Assembly to rule more as an oligarchy than as a true representative body.