Getting down to business

Posted: Apr 03, 2006 2:00 PM

Virginia Senator and presidential prospect George Allen headlined a fundraiser for South Carolina Representative Ralph Norman in late March. Norman, 52, a developer from the Charlotte suburb of Rock Hill, SC, is challenging 24-year Congressman John Spratt in the 5th Congressional District. attended the fundraiser and obtained an exclusive interview with candidate Ralph Norman. The following are excerpts from Norman’s speech and interview.

I am a businessman

“I am a businessman,” said Ralph Norman to a supportive group of big time South Carolina donors, amidst a luncheon of shrimp, fried chicken, collard greens, and sweet tea. The day’s theme revolved around Norman’s ideas on how to run government—like a business. 

First and foremost, Ralph Norman considers himself a fiscal conservative, a guardian of the taxpayer. Which makes sense—as a small businessman, he has struggled under the burden of high taxes, suffocating regulation, and an unresponsive bureaucracy. He has seen the government attempt to micromanage his businesses, take a significant portion of his income in taxes and then waste those taxpayer dollars, along with millions of others on pet projects and ineffective government programs.

“I believe in the free enterprise system,” Norman said. He supports giving more control back to the small businesses and taxpayers that really drive the American economy. Norman went on to say, “Business creates jobs, government does not.  Government creates a whole slew of jobs each time a new program or scheme is implemented, but always at the expense of the taxpayer. Small businesses invest in new businesses, which results in more jobs, Norman added.

When asked why he entered politics, Norman responded, “I got into politics because businessmen should be spending your money.” He went on to clarify that he really meant that businessmen should control spending, by not spending as much of ‘your money.’ He also added that, “The South Carolina Congressional delegation is made up of 4 conservatives and two liberals…I want to make it 5-1.” Norman explained that the votes of John Spratt and Jim Clyburn cancel out two conservative votes-of Gresham Barrett, Bob Inglis, Henry Brown or Joe Wilson. 

When “we are all shareholders in this thing called government,” Norman said, there needs to be more responsibility with the tax revenue. Norman promised to “treat your money as my own when I get to Washington,” a theme echoed by Senator Allen shortly thereafter. In his short time in the South Carolina House, Norman has not only talked fiscal conservatism, but he has voted that way as well. Of the 163 vetoes of spending items sent by Governor Mark Sanford to the House in FY 2005, Norman voted to sustain 159 of them, a 98% clip. Of all legislators in the South Carolina General Assembly, no one vote to sustain more spending vetoes than Ralph Norman. 

Campaign Momentum

Norman perceives his campaign as being on a positive upswing. Norman’s Republican primary opponent, Park Gillespie, drooped out of the race and has thrown his support behind Norman. Gillespie has promised to work with Norman, and Norman said that Gillespie is “genuinely on board.” Without a primary though, there is potential for momentum not lasting throughout the summer, though Norman seems unconcerned.  Saving money by not fighting in a primary however, has downsides. Name ID is a great benefit of a primary, especially through earned media, and significant precious dollars will have to be spent to make up for that shortfall. However, Norman said, “the only thing that counts in November.” also asked, “Does the presence of Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, George Allen, etc. help or hurt you in the 5th District? Furthermore, will President Bush make an appearance and will that help or hurt? Norman responded, “Definitely helps us. If anything, it gets people with us, it garners us some attention.” He added, “I would welcome a visit by the president, as would the 5th District.” 

Contrasts asked Norman to identify the four greatest differences between him and Spratt. Choosing to discuss several, Norman really highlighted Spratt’s lack of conservative credentials.

First, he said Spratt is on the wrong side of tort reform. As a businessman, of course Norman has experienced over-eager plaintiffs and judges all too willing to grant large awards. Norman argues that enacting serious tort reform might lower some of the burdens borne by small businesses. 

Secondly, Norman pointed out that Spratt voted against the Bush tax cuts over the last 5 years. Norman also argues that those tax cuts, including the death tax repeal, the dividend tax cut, and the capital gains tax cut all spurred the current economic upswing.

Spratt also consistently votes to curb the 2nd Amendment tax cuts, Norman offered.  In a state such as South Carolina, especially within the largely rural 5th District, 2nd Amendment rights are vitally important to both Republicans and Democrats.

Lastly, Ralph Norman pointed out their irreconcilable differences in philosophy. “Our philosophies on government are completely different,” he said. “I’ve led the fight to cut government, while [Spratt] is part of it…he [Spratt] votes to make the budget larger, while I would vote to cut it,” Norman added.

When asked if the national climate, a climate detrimental to Republicans would affect the outcome of his race, Norman responded, “No.  All elections are local…the most important thing is to get our message out to our voters.” 

Finally, asked, “Your campaign is attempting to paint Spratt as a leftist out of touch. Meanwhile, he says he’s a moderate Blue Dog. How do you win that argument?” To which Norman replied, “His voting record. John Spratt votes along with Nancy Pelosi 90% of the time.” 

The national GOP and the South Carolina GOP desperately want to knock of Spratt.  The candidate, Norman, is strong and has the financial backing to pull off the upset.  The success or failure of the entire campaign hinges on Norman’s ability to contrast Spratt’s speech with his votes. Nancy Pelosi has no business representing the 5th District of South Carolina. According to Ralph Norman, neither does John Spratt.