Alvin Greene -- why he won and what's next

Network News

X Profile
View More Activity
Manuel Roig-Franzia
Tuesday, June 15, 2010; 12:00 PM

Everyone's got a theory about why Alvin M. Greene -- an unemployed veteran and political newbie who didn't trifle with campaign speeches or public appearances -- handily won South Carolina's Democratic Party nomination for the U.S. Senate last week.<br><br>Manuel Roig-Franzia discussed the theories ranging from the voting machines, random-selecting voters, shadowy Republican operatives to Democratic antagonists.

_______________________

Random?: Isn't it possible that Greene won because of completely random factors? I saw a story that quoted a Democratic polling firm which actually did a survey in South Carolina, and the principal there said Vic Rawl had a 4 percent name ID.Essentially, that means NO ONE knew who he was, just like his primary opponent.

Manuel Roig-Franzia: Well, anything -- and I mean ANYTHING -- is possible in South Carolina politics. You're not alone in the random camp. Of course, there are many other camps, too. amng them the "first name on the ballot" camp and the "Greene sounds more African-American than Rawl" camp. That last one is getting some traction now because of the high percentage of African-American voters in typical SC Democratic primaries.

_______________________

Louisville, Ky.: Hello, Manuel. Thanks for fielding questions. I am fascinated by this bizarre story and I've watched every interview with Greene that I can find.I think my question is this: is he Forrest Gump or the Manchurian Candidate? I keep waiting for him to be some sort of diabolical political genius and suddenly break into political oratory and passionate, articulate sentences when the next reporter swoops down upon him.At this point, I see him as pure Forrest Gump Goes to Washington. I don't get the sense that he realizes all the attention or why it exists. Do you think he gets it? Really, I kind of feel sorry for the guy.

Manuel Roig-Franzia: I interviewed Mr. Greene for 3 hours last week. Here's my piece. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/10/AR2010061002499.htmlHe has an unusual manner of speaking. That has led to the kind of Forrest Gump comparisons you cite.I'll say this: Mr. Greene did not want to talk about many things -- the circumstances of his discharge from the military, for one. He also wouldn't show documentation to support his claim that the $10k filing fee was from his own account. However, I do give him a lot of credit for engaging in the interview. Some politicians in similarly controversial situations might have dodged reporters.

_______________________

Paul Williams: Election speculation comes from all corners after S.C. primaryS.C. Democrats ask: Where did Alvin Greene get money to file for Senate primary?In South Carolina, Greene is mystery man despite winning Democratic Senate nod

_______________________

Look to Illinois: In 1986, Illinois Democrats had a choice in the primary for lieutenant governor: Mark Fairchild or George Sangmeister. Most of them had never heard of either candidate, so they went for the nice-sounding Fairchild, a disciple of Lyndon LaRouche, rather than Sangmeister, the party's choice.Lower on the ballot, Janice Hart, another LaRouchie, defeated party choice Aurelia Pucinski.You don't need a theory to explain why Alvin Greene won. He won because voters are stupid. Or, if we want to be polite, uninformed.

Manuel Roig-Franzia: Definitely another theory out there. The "stupid" voters theory.

_______________________

Greene's SC election: I'm an 85-year-old member of the "Greatest Generation" and I can assure you I am no racist.Common sense tells me because the a large number of the SC Democrat Party are black, they simply voted for him because he was black and they were proud to do so. Thanks

Manuel Roig-Franzia: African-Americans often represent more than half of the Democratic primary voters in South Carolina, and I've seen estimates as high as 70 percent. In order for this theory to work, we have to assume that voters saw the name Greene and assumed it belonged to an African-American candidate. Of course, there are also white people who are named Greene. Graham Greene comes to mind.The reason that the name assumption is so important is that South Carolina voters didn't get to SEE much of Greene. He never gave a speech or ran a TV ad. These would be the more typical ways for voters to learn a candidate's race.

_______________________

The fix is in: I think one thing that everyone can agree on: something isn't right here. How does a candidate with no campaign and no money and no base win with 60 percent of the vote? The most obvious answer is a technology failure. Any evidence of faulty/hacked software in voting machines?

Manuel Roig-Franzia: Greene says voters could relate to him better than his opponent. After all, SC has high unemployment and Greene is unexployed. For more on that, here's today's piece:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/14/AR2010061405215.html?hpid=topnews

_______________________

Throw 'em all out!: Is this a result of the tea party, "don't vote for any incumbents" influence? A cautionary tale or just a vast right-wing conspiracy?

Manuel Roig-Franzia: I'm glad ou brought up the Tea Party factor. Haven't heard that mentioned yet, but it's worth considering. Even though Greene's opponent -- Vic Rawl -- is not an incumbent senator, he is politically experienced, serving on Charleston's city council, formerly a judge and a four-time member of the state legislature. Maybe voters saw Greene -- an unknown -- as a fresh start and associated Rawl with the old political machine. At least worth pondering.

_______________________

How can you have overvotes in a precinct?: There seem to be several precincts where the total number of votes cast for each candidate exceeds the number of voters who came to the polls. There are other counting irregularities. And there is an extreme disparity between absentee ballots and on-the-day ballots.It seems to me that either there was gross human error in reporting the results, or the voting machines were rigged or broken. How else can you get these results? If so, how can we trust the other vote counts? Is it possible Nikki Haley really won outright and shouldn't have to go to a runoff, for example?

Manuel Roig-Franzia: I'd imagine those precinct totals are going to be analyzed in great detail. My only caution is that many election experts say it's not uncommon to see strange patterns in racings like this one that draw a lot of attention.

_______________________

Washington, D.C.: It's endemic in a one-party state that the out party nominates someone kooky. If the Dems didn't want that, they should have put up a credible candidate, not a state judge no one ever heard of.Incredible to me the party chair is the wife and the mother of two former party chairs, all named Fowler.

Manuel Roig-Franzia: There's no question that these are no salad days for Ds in South Carolina.One thing worth considering: if Greene could catch lightning in a bottle in the primary, might he actually be a threat to DeMint, despite all the controversy. I mean, if voters truly want to kick out all the incumbents, why wouldn't they want to kick out DeMint, too. Of course, I realize, it's highly unlikely that Greene -- a candidate has been mocked relentlessly and has a pending obscenity charge for allegedly showing porn to a Univ of SC student -- could beat or even give a good challenge to a well-funded sitting senator. But, then again, it sure was unlikely that he would have gotten the nomination...

_______________________

Midlothian, Va.: The issue, IMO, is not how Greene won, but how an supposedly unemployed, destitute person came up with the cash to get on the ballot. If he could answer that, I think much of the mystery would go away.

Manuel Roig-Franzia: Agreed. I asked Mr. Greene repeatedly to show me documentation to prove his claim that his 10k filing fee -- much higher than a lot of other states, btw -- came from a personal checking account. He wouldn't do it. He eventually referred questions to a lawyer who is assisting him on an unofficial basis. The lawyer -- Eleazer Carter -- told me that he believes Greene's story, but also told me that he has not seen evidence to back the claim.

_______________________

Washington, DC: Count me as someone who thinks he won because his was the first name on the ballot. Why would the GOP risk fixing the primary? DeMint was a shoe-in regardless of who the Democratic candidate is.However, I wonder if Democrats in SC will take offense at some of the coverage of Greene's win, and turn out to vote for him to "teach someone a lesson" or something--that is, I wonder if this publicity will end up making the race relatively tighter than it would have been if Rawl had won.

Manuel Roig-Franzia: Interesting theory. A lot of people voted for Greene last time -- more than 100,000. Since then, his reputation hasn't just taken a hit, it has taken a whacking. The obscenity charge is big, but his performance in interviews might be even more damaging. But this is South Carolina, where politics can get wild and there's a lot of anti-incumbency fever out there. And, I can say a lot of supporters were calling Greene while I was at his house. Stay tuned.

_______________________

But, then again, it sure was unlikely that he would have gotten the nomination...: All those people who show their disdain for the political system by writing in "Mickey Mouse"?--this year they voting for Green: they chose the worst person on purpose to show their (uninformed) disgust.

Manuel Roig-Franzia: No doubt that voters are angry. That might help explain the great mystery that is Alvin Greene. Like many things, it may not be possible to boil down this shocker to just one factor. But it sure is interesting to try.Thank you all for joining me. I'm running to the airport. So long, for now.


© 2010 BudgetTravelOnline.com

Discussion Archive

Viewpoint is a paid discussion. The Washington Post editorial staff was not involved in the moderation.

Network News

X My Profile
View More Activity