Southern politics

You don’t have to be a southerner to understand southern politics, but it helps if you have lived below the Mason-Dixon line for a few years.

I have lived in the South since 1997. Since then I have watched an Attorney General play himself in a movie. I have heard a Governor (after being questioned about blatant infidelity) threaten to beat a reporter’s ass. A few years before I arrived in the South, a mayoral candidate paid a hitman to kill his former law partner and his city councilperson wife. In Tennessee, a Senatorial candidate had his opponent knocked off. And just to the west in Georgia, a former candidate for county sheriff is under investigation for the murder of a long-time lawman.

Politics in the South is a dirty and bloody as the Lewis vs. Tyson fight (and regarding the Lewis Tyson IS ON promotion…Tyson IS ON the canvas and I couldn’t be happier about it).

In less than 24 hours, South Carolina voters will go to the polls to begin picking who will be the state’s next Governor. And if anyone thinks leeches could let more blood, you are living blissfully in the North. Or at least the Midwest.

The dirty attack ads have already been running for a few days. Our current Governor is threatening to act as a personal, physical roadblock to some large shipments of plutonium to this state. Seven people are vying for his job. I compare them to a classroom…the quiet bully, the class clown, the tattletale, the rich kid, the high school quarterback, and the crazy girl who carries a big bag. Put these candidates on stage and it is the South Carolina Breakfast Club. John Hughes could have a field day with these people.

Tomorrow morning I will wake up and leap off the high dive of reason into a pool of southern politics. Primary Tuesday will be followed by several months of political coverage during which time you might hear me uttering phrases like:

* “I don’t care where you’re from, southern politics is not a boring subject.”

* “What do you mean you don’t care?”

* “Stop giving my stories away.”

* “I don’t care if you only have thirty seconds of news time to give me, this is important.”

* “Would somebody PLEASE listen to me for six seconds?”

See, here’s the thing: Poltical reporting is as close as you can get to be a sportscaster without being shoved to the end of the newscast. It has personality. It has a stated objective. And we keep score.

Crime reporting is actually my first love and always will be. But during a good southern political season, it’s not a stretch to imagine crime and politics meeting in a dirty marriage. Or at least for a torrid one-night stand in an interstate hotel room.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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