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Saturday, June 12, 2010

Who Is Alvin Greene? Now They Want To Know! Ha Ha Ha

Who’s Alvin Greene? S.C. State Asks After Vote

For a few hours this week, it looked as if South Carolina might ditch its never-fail reputation for political scandal in favor of a genuine history-making event.

There was Nikki Haley, a lawmaker of Indian descent, beaming on election night with her husband and children after taking a major step toward becoming the first female governor of the state. It was a feel-good image to obscure the stain of a campaign marked by ethnic slurs, accusations of marital infidelity and yet more national marveling over how a single state can produce a string of political embarrassments as long as the Appalachian Trail.

But then, the television cameras started rolling on Alvin Greene’s overgrown lawn.

“Yeah, it’s been pretty nonstop for a few days,” said Mr. Greene, 32, in a phone interview Friday.

Because everyone wants to know how Mr. Greene, an unemployed Army veteran who had been completely unknown until Tuesday, inexplicably defeated a heavily favored former legislator and judge to become the state’s Democratic nominee for the Senate — and the state’s latest political circus act.

Mr. Greene had just a few peaceful hours to savor his victory in the tiny, ramshackle home he shares with his elderly father along a quiet highway in Manning, where he has been bunkered since election night. Then, The Associated Press reported that Mr. Greene was arrested in November and is facing a felony obscenity charge; he is accused of showing pornography to a University of South Carolina student. He had been discharged “involuntarily” from the Army and showed no signs of having waged an actual campaign in recent months — no advertising, no staff, no money.

Mr. Greene, who declined to comment on the obscenity charge, would not say how he came up with the $10,440 to register his candidacy. Representative James E. Clyburn, Democrat of South Carolina and the House majority whip, suggested that Mr. Greene was a “Republican plant” and that the circumstance reeked of the “shenanigans” that have become the state’s trademark.

“We have embarrassment fatigue here,” said Dick Harpootlian, the former Democratic chairman of the state. “If there is an embarrassment equivalent of post-traumatic stress disorder, South Carolina has it.”

Even casual observers across the country can recite the recent litany of Palmetto State political antics. The Republican donnybrook between John McCain and George W. Bush in 2000 left more scars than any presidential primary campaign in recent memory. Gov. Mark Sanford’s public swoon over an Argentinean mistress — an affair he carried on while claiming to have been hiking the Appalachian Trail — remains a spigot of late-night punch lines (while Mr. Sanford remains the state’s governor).

The Republican primary campaign to succeed Mr. Sanford featured two operatives claiming to have had extramarital affairs with Ms. Haley (who strenuously denied the accusations) as well as a Republican state senator dismissing her with an ethnic slur.

Now comes Mr. Greene, adding Democratic balance to the state’s Republican-dominated scandal sheets of recent vintage. Mr. Clyburn immediately called for someone to investigate Mr. Greene’s candidacy — who paid for the campaign, who was behind it, how did he ever win?

Mr. Harpootlian, a former district attorney, wants to know why Mr. Greene had not filed any papers with the Federal Election Commission, and Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman from South Carolina, said he suspected that someone tampered with the voting machines.

“There is something genuinely mysterious about this whole thing,” said Mr. Fowler, whose wife, Carol, the current chairwoman of the state’s Democratic Party, has called for Mr. Greene to step aside.

Mr. Greene said he had no intention of doing so. He said the whole gambit has been his idea, that he paid the entry fee and that his was — and remains — “a self-managed campaign.” He said he would challenge his Republican opponent, Senator Jim DeMint, to a debate in September. “It will be one hour. Live. On a major network,” he proposed.

Mr. Greene said he was determined to go through with this, which would seem to belie the somewhat shell-shocked demeanor he has projected in several interviews over the last 72 hours. “Can I end this?” Mr. Greene asked in the middle of a brief interview with a local television station in front of his house Wednesday. It might as well be his campaign’s official motto, or wish, at least as far as leading Democrats are concerned.

“Sad,” Mr. Clyburn said, referring to the spectacle that Mr. Greene has become on the cable and YouTube circuits.

Even in Manning, a town of 4,000 where everybody knows everybody, nobody seems to know Alvin Greene. “He just all of a sudden shows up and — boom!” said L. G. Mathis, 61, the owner of L. G.’s Cut and Style, a barber shop downtown.

It is another embarrassment for South Carolina, said Carl F. Jackson Jr, a graphic designer at a local newspaper, The Clarendon Citizen. “Anybody who got beyond eighth grade is a little astounded by this,” Mr. Jackson said, adding his own theory of how Mr. Greene had won. “Maybe voters thought it was the singer, Al Green.”

When asked in a phone interview Friday whether he was having “fun,” Mr. Greene quickly answered yes, before asking for clarification.

“What do you mean by fun?”

Without waiting for an answer, Mr. Greene said he was not interested in “fun,” or signing autographs (which he has yet to do) or indulging any of the trappings of his unlikely celebrity. He is interested in sticking to the issues that are important — jobs, education, justice — and to conveying why he is “the best candidate for the United States Senate in South Carolina.”

Before elaborating on why he was, Mr. Greene excused himself, saying that he had to finish another interview.

S.C. State Certifies Greene's Surprising Primary Win

In a building on Devine Street, in a small conference room on the first floor, a man, a woman and three others patched in by conference call Friday certified one of the most surprising election results in S.C. history.

Alvin Greene - an unemployed military veteran facing a felony obscenity charge, unknown by Democrats even in the rural county where he lives - is the official winner of the S.C. Democratic Party's primary for the U.S. Senate, the S.C. Election Commission decided.

Democrat Party officials scratched their heads over how Greene's candidacy moved forward despite that pending felony charge.

His vanquished primary opponent, former state legislator Vic Rawl of Charleston, wouldn't talk to The State on Friday but is reported to be poring over the results, looking for something that might explain how Greene got 59 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the Green Party's U.S. Senate candidate, Tom Clements, is hoping disaffected Democrats will turn to him as the best hope to unseat Republican Sen. Jim DeMint in the fall.

And the 5th Circuit Solicitor's Office is looking into how Greene was able to get a Public Defender, which normally requires that a defendant be broke, to help him with that obscenity charge, given the $10,400 filing fee that Greene paid to run for the U.S. Senate.

Vanity Fair, CNN, MSNBC and The New York Times were among the media outlets poking around Friday for details on the unusual case.

Greene himself answered the telephone Friday at his home in Manning and repeated what Democratic Party officials did not want to hear: He has no intention of dropping out of the race.

"The people of South Carolina have spoken," he said. "I am their candidate. I want to talk about the issues and not anything else. Jobs, education and justice."

It was a refrain Greene offered often during the course of a 15-minute interview, punctuated more than a half-dozen times by interruptions that appeared to be from his call-waiting system.

Asked what people should know about him, Greene paused, said "OK, OK" several times and added he was born in Florence and grew up in Manning.

He served in the Air Force and the Army, which gave him an honorable discharge he described as "involuntary."

"They should know my campaign slogan is, "Let's get South Carolina back to work", Greene said.

Asked if he had help paying his filing fee, as suggested by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., in a conference call on Thursday, Greene said: "I paid that with my own money."

Greene said he campaigned across the state but offered no details of any particular places where he had traveled.

A pair of state legislators who met with Greene Thursday to urge him to drop his Senate bid came away concerned about Greene's mental state.

Asked if they or the people of South Carolina should be concerned about his mental state, Greene simply said, "No."

On Aug. 16, political parties will certify to the State Election Commission that their candidates for the fall election can or will be able to meet the requirements of the office they seek.

Democrats could not replace Greene on the ballot unless he meets narrow, non-political guidelines for stepping down.

Meanwhile, fingers are being pointed at the state Democratic Party, its leaders and others for failing to check out Greene.

Carol Fowler, chairwoman of the S.C. State Democratic Party, said the party's researcher did look into Greene's background but did not turn up anything unusual.

Greene was arrested in November and charged with obscenity after a University of South Carolina student said he showed her pornographic pictures in a computer lab and suggested they go to her room.

Fowler said she did not find out about the charge until after the primary.

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Sources: CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, McClatchy Newspapers, NY Daily News, NY Times, Seattle Times, The State, Vanity Fair, WCNC, Google Maps

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