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Dr. Neal ThigpenDr. Neal Thigpen, “Father of the Florence GOP” and retired Chairman of the FMU Political Science Department, was recently targeted by the Executive Committee of the Florence County Republican Party, expelled and “banned” from any and all GOP activities in the future in a vindictive motion by another member of the Committee.

This behavior simply cannot go unchallenged. Here’s the background:

Back in the summer of 2010, I resigned from my office as Precinct Executive Committeeman and secretary of the Florence County Republican Party, because I supported my longtime friend Ed Clements for reelection as Solicitor. (See earlier post from August 2010.)

Done in accordance with South Carolina Republican Party Rules, my resignation applied only to my 2009-2011 term of office.

As a former First Vice Chair of the SC Republican Party (two terms), party activist and volunteer for many campaigns since the 1980’s (see About Bette Cox in http://www.bettecox.com), I fully expected to return to my usual precinct and county party participation in 2011 and had thus reassured other party officials.

Well, as you know, Ed Clements won reelection by a large margin. That’s when the bile really began to flow.

In December the Florence County GOP Executive Committee voted on the following improper motion made by Stephanie Rawlinson, campaign manager for Ed’s opponent Rosemary Parham in the Solicitor’s race:

“That the Florence County Republican Party remove the following individuals as Officers, Executive Committee Members and precinct officers from the Florence County Republican Party: Mr. Mal Weatherly and Dr. Neal Thigpen. These officers of the Executive Committee openly and publicly endorsed a local Democrat who was running against a vetted Republican candidate in the elections which were held on November 2, 2010. My motion is made pursuant to SC Republican Party Rule 4-d-2.

“Further, that we remove these individuals from their current party offices and we ban these individuals from ever being allowed to serve as Florence County Republican Officers, Precinct Officers, Executive Committee Members and County convention delegates.

“Also, that the Florence County Republican Party ban these individuals from ever being endorsed Republican candidates.

“These individuals should be notified by the party secretary via certified letter that they have been removed as organizational officers and be asked to turn over all party information, computer files, databases or materials they may have in their possession within ten days of the passing of this motion or legal action will be pursued by this organization’s executive committee.”

The motion passed with no individuals voting against. Shame on you!

An earlier motion with similar wording that would apply to anyone was tabled until the January 13, 2011 meeting, and was passed at that time.

Both motions were improper, out of order, and should never have been given a hearing by the committee. Why? Because South Carolina Election Law and State Republican Party Rules take precedence over any local party rules and bylaws.

Title 7 of the South Carolina Code of Laws defines requirements for participating in party activities:

CHAPTER 9. PARTY ORGANIZATION

SECTION 7-9-20. Qualifications for party membership and voting in primary election.

The qualifications for membership in a certified party and for voting at a party primary election include the following: the applicant for membership, or voter, must be at least eighteen years of age or become so before the succeeding general election, and must be a registered elector and a citizen of the United States and of this State. A person may not vote in a primary unless he is a registered elector. The state convention of any political party, organization, or association in this State may add by party rules to the qualifications for membership in the party, organization, or association and for voting at the primary elections if the qualifications do not conflict with the provisions of this section or with the Constitution and laws of this State or of the United States.

South Carolina Republican Party Rule 4(c)(3) gives the following requirements for participating in party precinct organization:

Membership eligibility is determined by the member having a current, valid voter registration certificate in that precinct, and either (1) the person having voted in the election designated for the purposes of delegate allocation set forth in Rule 4(c)(5) or (2) the person being elected to membership at a precinct meeting.

As they attempt to greatly expand the scope of the South Carolina Code of Laws and the SC Republican Rules, according to Robert’s Rules of Order sections 10 and 39 the motions were improper, out of order, and thus null and void.

Having said that…

Specifically targeting Dr. Neal Thigpen is disgraceful to say the least, not to mention short-sighted.

Dr. Thigpen has contributed many years of dedicated, faithful service to the local and state Republican parties. Discarding his experience and wisdom would be highly detrimental to both.

And discounting his experience and wisdom in this way has been – and is – detrimental to the well-being of Dr. Thigpen.

Mal Weatherly, one of Ed’s cousins, is a fellow musician and band member – it would have been abnormal for him NOT to support Ed in this election. Mal has served the Republican Party for many years, getting involved as a volunteer during President Reagan’s reelection campaign. He has served as a Delegate to the State Convention numerous times. He has always gladly done whatever he was called upon to do to aid the party and its candidates, with this one exception made for his family member.

Stepping back from the executive committee for the remainder of our 2009-2011 terms is one thing. Those terms expire shortly.

But being banned from ever serving the party in any capacity? Being banned from running for any public office as an endorsed Republican candidate?

Regardless of the fact that these improper motions are not enforceable, damage has been done by their very introduction.

For newcomers to Florence, Dr. Thigpen recently retired after a long and distinguished career at Francis Marion University. Francis Marion established the “Neal D. Thigpen Chair in Public Affairs” in Dr. Thigpen’s honor in 2002, making this announcement:

FLORENCE—The Francis Marion University Foundation plans to honor long-time faculty member Neal D. Thigpen by creating an endowed chair in his name. The announcement of the fund-raising campaign was made at a campus reception Thursday evening, July 18.

The Neal D. Thigpen Chair in Public Affairs will be awarded to a senior faculty member in the Department of Political Science and Geography. When fully funded, this $100,000 endowment remains secure in perpetuity and only the earnings derived from the invested funds will be used for the recipient to pursue research and scholarly activities and to transmit the fruits of these efforts to FMU students.

“This chair will serve as a means for the university to recognize the long and distinguished career of Neal Thigpen,” said FMU President Fred Carter. “As a department chairman for 24 years, he built one of the stronger and more collegial political science programs in South Carolina. I am personally proud to be a part of that department’s faculty.”

Thigpen came to FMU in 1971 and has distinguished himself as an educator, political analyst and community leader. He served as chairman of FMU’s political science program from 1971 to 1996 and still serves as a professor of political science.

He holds a doctorate in public administration and American government from the University of Maryland. He earned a master’s degree and a bachelor’s degree from the same institution.

Author of numerous articles on American politics, Thigpen frequently speaks before business and political organizations. He is active in state and local politics and has served as a delegate to the S.C. Republican Convention numerous times and the National Republican Convention five times. He is married to Patsy S. Stone, and they reside in Florence.

If you are also appalled by this situation, please make your voice heard to the Florence County GOP and its newly elected chairman, Bill Pickle. You may reach him at bpickle@sc.rr.com.

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