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A week later, and Greene's Senate nomination is still a mystery for S.C.

Calvin and Bernard give their brother a look of pity.

"If I'm a Republican," Calvin says, "I'm gonna love this for the next few months. The Democrats are gonna get beat down."

Bernard wants to know: "Who gave him the money? Al Capone?" The filing fee was $10,400, and Greene is unemployed.

Theories abound

At a nearby table, Chamberlin Phillips, 45, is also baffled by Greene's victory.

"It's shocking that, in this political climate, when people spend millions on campaigns, that he could win. I saw no advertising for him. I've seen more advertising for nightclubs around here than I've seen for him. There was just no exposure about this gentleman." Phillips, who is black, expresses another point of dismay: "He wasn't vetted by the Democratic Party. There are a lot of talented African Americans here."

The word "conspiracy" can be heard quite frequently in the shops of the Broad River and Two Notch roads area. Many wonder whether Greene was a plant, the weakest candidate propped up to fall to DeMint.

"Could people have voted for Greene who didn't want him to win?" asks Garry Baum, a spokesman for the South Carolina State Election Commission. "Anything is possible. It's a theory, and I'll leave that to the theorists."

At the Piggly Wiggly, the diners don't need the help of theorists to tell them what happened. Jim Starnes, who works for the Mental Health Department and was a precinct captain on primary day, is smarting over the election results: "I think a significant number of Republicans voted for him. Face it, if the Republicans have the weakest candidate, they won't have to spend as much of their own money." Then he ponders what he has said: "You'd think, though, if the Republicans did this, why didn't they pick someone more believable?"

That evening, LaToya Thompson, 35, is sitting at an outdoor cafe near downtown. She works in customer service for a cable company. She, too, cast her ballot for Greene, whom she had never heard of, never seen, and never read any literature about. "I voted for him, to be honest, because he had the same last name as a friend of mine," she says. She shrugs her shoulders. "Listen, our governor went to Argentina to see his mistress with my tax money. Alvin Greene is just falling into the South Carolina scheme of things. He's being a politician."

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