Originally created 09/13/99

Poker ban gets push from GOP



COLUMBIA -- Republicans say it is not partisanship or payback time, but the party is jumping into the effort to ban video gambling.

Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges has become a clear target for Republicans as they fight video gambling.

State GOP Chairman Henry McMaster said the party is involved in a support role. That includes meeting with gambling opponents, a massive increase in the party's newsletter to get out the "no" vote and steering party activists into the fray.

Mr. McMaster said he had met extensively with leaders of the anti-gambling coalition, and their consensus is that the issue cannot succeed if it is perceived as a partisan, The Greenville News reported.

Mr. McMaster and others have nipped at Mr. Hodges' heels for months, attacking him for not using his office to stir video gambling opposition.

Mr. McMaster says Mr. Hodges is "bought and paid for with video poker money" after industry advertising helped him win the November election against Republican David Beasley, who tried to ban the industry.

Some political analysts warn that attacks on Mr. Hodges by the GOP could create a backlash from people tired of partisan politics.

"Individuals injecting (partisanship) into it for their own political objectives run the risk of this backfiring," Bill Moore, a College of Charleston political science professor, told The (Charleston) Post and Courier.

Democrats, badly divided on the issue, say the party is standing clear.

Mike Fletcher of Spartanburg, chairman of the pro-video poker Vote Yes committee, said the Republican involvement "goes to show that this whole video gambling debate is nothing but politics. It's not about gambling at all or its impact."

Some Democrats have become active in the effort to ban video gambling.

State Sen. Ralph Anderson of Greenville is working to energize anti-video poker voters. He said he's comfortable with Republican involvement, "as long as we understand we have a common enemy."