Greene gets trounced in primary for SC House seat

Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson
Dwight Stewart
Dwight Stewart

By Jack Kuenzie - bio | email

MANNING, SC (WIS) - Three months after his improbable U.S. Senate run came up short, Alvin Greene got trounced in the election for a seat in the South Carolina House.

Residents in Clarendon County and a small part of Williamsburg County headed to the polls for the special election primary Tuesday. Democrats and Republicans in House District 64 are choosing their nominee for the seat held by the late Cathy Harvin.

Clarendon County Election Commission spokesman Bobbie Reaves said Sonny Sanders won the Republican nomination with 64.94% of the vote, and Kevin L. Johnson won the Democratic nomination with 60.87% of the vote.

Longshot candidate Alvin Greene was trounced in the Democratic primary with just 37 votes, or less than a single percentage point.

The 33-year-old Democrat who became an international celebrity last year by winning his party's nomination for U.S. Senate with no campaign signs, ads or appearances, is trying to win the Democratic nomination for a state House seat anchored in his hometown of Manning.

Five of the six candidates have plastered their names all over Clarendon and Williamsburg Counties. The sixth is again defying conventional political wisdom and advice from his family. "Sometimes he gets the attention and it gets too much and he just goes away," said James Greene, Alvin Greene's brother. "But I tell him he needs to get out."

He, of course, is Alvin Greene, the unemployed military veteran who shot to fame with his bizarre bid to unseat GOP incumbent Senator Jim DeMint. On Tuesday, instead of beating the bushes for last-minute votes to win the Democratic slot for House 64, Greene spent part of the day at home.

He did his best to avoid our camera, and even the simplest of questions. James says Alvin is shy. "You can't be too shy and hold a public office like this," said James Greene. "You gotta get out and see the people. So I don't know what his strategy is but it might work and it might not, I don't know."

James Greene says his brother was up early Tuesday morning to vote. He says Alvin handed out flyers during the campaign, but put out no signs or bumper sticker and spent little money beyond the $165 filing fee he forked over on Christmas Eve.

None of the candidates are taking Greene lightly, even if they haven't seen "Greene for House" signs or run into him shaking hands and making speeches.

"To the best of my knowledge, I have never met Mr. Greene," said Dwight Stewart, a 10-year Clarendon County councilman, who spent 20 years before that on a small town council in the county. "Based on Mr. Greene's history running for the Senate, he was not a very ardent campaigner, so I'm not surprised."

Greene missed several candidate debates, including a forum last month that some thought might finally be a chance to get the debate he was never given by his challenger last year, Republican U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint.

But the lack of a campaign was only part of Greene's allure last summer as he went from unemployed Army veteran living with his father to Senate candidate. Reporters loved his crazy ideas, like making action figures of himself to stimulate the economy. People on the Web clicked on his interviews, like the one on a national cable outlet where he answered nearly every question, including how he got the nickname "Turtle" in high school, with "DeMint started the recession."

Greene isn't talking about his strategy for this race. He told a reporter from The Associated Press "no comment" on the phone Monday when asked what kind of campaigning he has been doing, and said he didn't know where he was going to wait for returns. He was even cagey when asked how he thought he might do in the primary.

"I have no comment," Greene said, pausing for several seconds. "But I feel OK. So far, so good."

Criminal charges are still hanging over Greene's head. He was indicted in August on a felony charge of showing pornography to a teenage student in a South Carolina college computer lab and a misdemeanor charge of communicating obscene materials to a person without consent.

Greene's lawyer has said his actions in the computer lab were an attempt to flirt with the student. The student's mother says she was traumatized.

Having Greene on the ballot hasn't changed the dynamics of the race much, said Manning Mayor Kevin Johnson, who is on the ballot along with Stewart and Clarendon District 1 School Board member Bernard Richburg. Two Republicans are also running for the seat left vacant when Rep. Cathy Harvin died in December.

Instead of Greene, people are talking about jobs - Clarendon County ranked ninth in unemployment in the state at 15.5 percent in December - and leadership.

"You can't ever count anyone out," Johnson said. "But I haven't seen him doing much."

And retail politics, like chicken dinners and knocking on doors can be very important in this kind of race, said Cal Land, chairman of the Clarendon County Democratic Party.

"This is probably who you know and who knows you kind of thing," Land said. "It's a rural area where most people probably know personally who they are voting for."

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Copyright 2011 WIS. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.