Originally created 05/11/05

Sanford says blacks won't be elected to state office



COLUMBIA - Gov. Mark Sanford said last week in a television interview it might be a long time before a black candidate is elected to statewide office in South Carolina, raising a few eyebrows but prompting a few amens from black leaders.

In an interview that aired Sunday on a Columbia television station, Mr. Sanford was asked about blacks winning statewide office. "Can I interject?" Mr. Sanford asked, interrupting the show's host. "I think there never will be," Mr. Sanford said.

"You said you don't think there ever will be?" asked Craig Melvin, host of Awareness on WIS-TV.

"In the foreseeable future," Mr. Sanford said. It hasn't happened in the past 100 years, and "that is tragic," said the governor, who is a white Republican.

The only thing that could change that record is allowing governors to appoint some of the people who now are elected to statewide offices, Mr. Sanford said.

"One of the reasons I believe so strongly in restructuring is if I was given a chance to appoint those constitutional officers, there would almost certainly be representation from all the different cultures that make up South Carolina," Mr. Sanford said.

Several black Democrats agreed with Mr. Sanford.

"You cannot criticize him for being honest," said Rep. David Mack, the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

"I agree with him," said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, a black Democrat from Orangeburg.

"That's the only way in South Carolina a person of color will ever hold a constitutional position."

But not all black Democrats agreed with the governor.

"It's unfortunate that 30 years after the civil rights struggle has been fought and blacks and whites have come together in a desegregated society that the governor would start espousing ... views that blacks cannot get elected statewide," said Rep. Fletcher Smith, D-Greenville.