Could Haley Recall Effort Gain Steam with Legislation?
Several bills have been filed in the General Assembly to amend the SC Constitution to allow for the recall of elected officials as a new Recall 'Trikki Nikki' website seeks to generate public support for the move.
Editor's note: Story updated at 1:35 p.m. Jan. 9 with response from Rob Godfrey in Gov. Haley's office.
Gov. Nikki Haley racked up a long list of political enemies in her first year as South Carolina's top elected official.
Now a group of purported conservative activists have launched a new effort to recall the governor with the website recallsc.com. The site, which consists of a single page laying out the case for recalling Haley, launched in December to build public support for the effort.
But repeating recall efforts that took place last year in Michigan and Arizona — and ongoning in Wisconsin — faces a daunting uphill battle.
"I'm sure the people supporting this have passion," said College of Charleston political science professor and director of the Joseph P. Riley Center for Livable Communities Kendra Stewart.
"But it is highly unlikely that it will happen."
For starters, the state Constitution does not currently allow for a recall process, and it will require a constitutional amendment to change that. Constitutional amendments require a higher threshhold in the legislature — a two-thirds majority in both houses — than typical statutory legislation.
It also has history going against it. There have been only two successful governor recalls in history: Lynn Frazier (North Dakota) in 1921 and Gray Davis (California) in 2003. In 1988, a recall for Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham made the ballot but was stopped after Mecham was impeached.
However, if one of the several bills now filed in the General Assembly that would establish the framework for recalls were to pass it would have the necessary support to override a gubernatorial veto. The legislature's 2012 session begins Tuesday.
Then the voters of South Carolina would have to weigh in on the issue as a referndum question on a future ballot.
Haley has reportedly been on both sides of the recall issue.
Conservative South Carolina news website FitsNews.com, notably not a fan of Haley, has reported in numerous stories that during a similar effort to introduce recall legislation during 2009, after former Gov. Mark Sanford's extramarital affair came to light, Haley refused to sign on to recall legislation telling her colleagues she "didn't believe" in the concept of recalling elected officials.
Soon after taking office last year, Lt. Gov. Ken Ard became the subject of an ethics investigation due to peculiar post-election spending from his campaign account — including a dress for his wife, trips and other expenses.
With the state grand jury investigating Ard last summer, The State again asked Haley about recalls and she had a different response:
“Anything that empowers the voters, I’m always going to support,” said Haley, speaking to reporters after announcing a $14 million business investment in Bamberg County. “At the end of the day, it’s the people we want to be satisfied with who they had.”
On Monday morning, Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey repeated the line when asked to comment on the recall issue: "Governor Haley supports efforts like recall legislation that empowers voters — as long as it includes all elected officials."
Meanwhile, Rep. William "Bill" Sandifer, a chief sponsor of two S.C. House bills to amend the constitution to allow for recalls says he is optimitstic that a recall bill will make it through the General Assembly this time around (the language of both bills are available here and here). There are also three recall bills filed in the S.C. Senate (here, here and here), all of which were filed in December 2010, after Haley was elected but before she took office.
Despite the challenges of making recall of elected officials possible in South Carolina, Stewart at the College of Charleston said it is more likely to happen now than at any time in the past, due to the popularity of the idea among a populace that is no fan of government and elected officials in general.
"It would be politically popular with the general public with the political climate now," she said. "So if at any time it were to happen the climate is ripe for it now."
Sandifer echoes Stewart's observation.
"The reason I introduced it is I think there is a significant amount of discontent with all elected officials," Sandifer said. "And I mean at all levels, city councils, county councils, state officials and federal."
Sandifer did not say that the bills he filed specifically target Haley, and noted that they apply to all elected officials at every level in the state. He added with the option to recall officials voters would have to opportunity to remove officials proir to their next re-election campaign.
"It gives a little more power to the electorate," Sandifer said. "It maybe makes us that serve in elected office more accountable."
Stewart said that the nature of the bills, that they would apply to all elected officials in the state, may limit the support the bills receive in the legislature.
"It would put more than the governor in the crosshairs," Stewart said. "They'd be putting their own jobs on the line and politicians usually don't do that sort of thing."
Sandifer, despite his optimism, said he knows it won't be easy to pass recall legislation.
"I don't ever delude myself into believing any piece of legislation will pass," he said. "I think it is good legilation, but it is a numbers game and the majority always wins. I hope we have the numbers."
A similar effort died in committee last summer due to a couple of factors, Sandifer said.
Last year's bill was introduced much later in the session, he said. The five bills dealing with recall have all been prefiled for the 2012 session, so the issue of timing should not be a concern this session, he said. Additionally most of the Judiciary Committee's time in 2011 was devoted to the decennial redistricting process based on the 2010 Census. That also won't be a factor in the 2012 session he said.
With the uncertainty over the potential of any of the recall bills to make it through both chambers in the General Assembly, Stewart said the Recall "Trikki Nikki" online petition, which she said seems to be coming from the conservative side of the aisle rather than from Democrats this time, may end up being more of a message to the governor that her own side of the political divide is unhappy with her performance than to result in Haley actually being recalled.
"I think the purpose of it is to send a message to the governor," Stewart said. "And it detracts from what she's trying to accomplish."
Patch.com did not receive a response from the petition organizers asking for comment on this story and we have been unable to verify who created the petition site.
According to the WHOIS directory, the site was purchased through GoDaddy.com and is registered to Domains by Proxy, a company owned by GoDaddy's founders that helps website managers protect their identities.
Oddly enough, the petition lists the Haley administration's lack of transparency first among several gripes with the governor.
Other grievances on the petition include Haley giving salary increases to her staff while campaigning on fiscal responsibility, that Haley is facing a lawsuit over potential ethics violations, the SC DHEC Board's decision on approving port deepening activities in the Savannah River, Haley using inflated jobs numbers, her removal of Darla Moore from the Board of Trustees at the University of South Carolina and Haley's adminstration destroying public records.