Friday, December 01, 2006

Katon Dawson on GOP success

GOP wins by keeping on course
By KATON DAWSON Guest columnist (from the State 12.01.06)

The national elections on Nov. 7 were not particularly good to the Republican Party. Democrats will control a majority in both houses of Congress and a majority of governorships across the country. But while the national tide seemed to take a leftward turn, we in South Carolina succeeded on a course of conservative values.

In South Carolina we had historic victories. Gov. Mark Sanford was re-elected with the largest percentage of the vote of any candidate for governor or U.S. senator in our state in nearly a generation. Republicans swept every statewide office on the ballot, with only one exception, and that exception was the closest race in state history. We also retained our large majority in the state House of Representatives.

Why did Republicans do so well in South Carolina when our party did so poorly in most other states?

Many people deserve credit, from our thousands of dedicated grassroots volunteers to our local and county party organizations to our extremely generous donors, and most of all to our candidates themselves.

But there’s a larger message in our Republican success in South Carolina. That message is that this year South Carolina Republicans ran on the unabashedly conservative and reform agendas that are the hallmarks of our party’s successful history.

While too many Republicans around the country had to defend their records and appeared to many voters to have lost their direction, Republicans in South Carolina were able to campaign on their records of conservative accomplishments and platforms of limited government.

And while too many Republicans around the country had to try to answer for the excesses of the big-government, good ol’ boy system in Washington, Republicans in South Carolina were able to credibly make the case that we are the party of reform, ethics and optimism about the future.

Gov. Sanford deserves great credit for keeping the Republican Party a winner in South Carolina, despite the massive headwinds that we faced with the national tide this year.

With Mark Sanford at the top of the ticket, voters saw someone with a consistent record of fighting for limited government, lower taxes, less spending, education reform and a willingness to stand up to the special interests that for too long have had their way in state government.

One of the most ridiculously over-reported stories of this year was the “Republicans for Moore” effort. The election results offer conclusive proof that this tiny group of malcontents masquerading as “Republicans” had no significant support within our party, and had no impact whatsoever on the election. In Horry County, a widely but inaccurately reported hotbed of “Republicans for Moore,” Sanford increased his victory margin by a whopping 18 points. Overall, in Republican base counties, Sanford received 21 percent more votes than the typical Republican performance over the last several years.

But his victory was not limited to Republican strongholds. Sanford saw his voting percentage rise in eight counties with African-American majorities. In Marlboro County, Sanford gained almost 8 points above his 2002 performance.

As remarkable as the breadth of this victory was, it was not a solitary win for Mark Sanford. Gov. Sanford and his message helped our candidates at every level, and South Carolina Republicans won up and down the ticket.

What did South Carolina show the nation on Nov.7?

If Republicans stay true to the principles of our party — limited government, lower taxes, traditional values and embracing change rather than defending more of the same — we win. And we win not only among Republicans, but among Democrats and independents too. That’s a lesson that I hope will be learned by Republicans far beyond our state’s borders.

Mr. Dawson is the South Carolina Republican Party chairman.