I had lunch with Eugene Platt recently and he wanted his friends and supporters to know that he still considers himself a worthy public servant and serious political contender, regardless what his detractors say. But he will no longer call himself a Democrat.
Platt has been a Democrat for years, of course, running for Congress and the General Assembly on the Democratic ticket and serving on the James Island Public Service Commission since 1993. What alienated him from the Charleston County Democrats was the way he went about running for the state House District 115 seat last year.
Platt was the nominee of the S.C. Green Party and also a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the District 115 seat. When he lost the Democratic primary to Anne Peterson Hutto in June, he remained in the race as the Green Party nominee. This infuriated local Democrats, who feared that he would draw away enough support to throw the election to Republican incumbent Wallace Scarborough. They went to court and had him removed from the ballot, arguing that he had signed a pledge when he announced as a Democratic candidate that he would not run as an independent or third party candidate should he lose the primary and that state law forbids a candidate from running for office on two different party tickets. Platt maintained that he had been the Green Party nominee before he was a Democratic candidate and that entitled him to keep his status as that party’s nominee. (Arguing on Platt’s behalf in the case was the S.C. American Civil Liberties Union.)
Peterson Hutto went on to unseat Scarborough in a stunning upset in the strongest Democratic showing in S.C. in decades. But that did not mollify her allies and supporters, who excoriated Platt, online and to his face.
Platt told me that he was hurt by the rebuke from people he considered friends and colleagues, but he assured me he had nothing to apologize for. “The Green Party is a legitimate party,” he said. “It’s still tiny, but the Green Party is here to stay.”
Platt said he has been an active Green for years, voting for Ralph Nader for President in 2000, 2004 and 2008. “Losing in the Democratic primary was a blessing in disguise,” he said, “because it gave me the reason I needed to go completely Green.”
He said he is already receiving postings on the Green Party website urging him to run again for the District 115 seat and he is leaning toward making that announcement and doing it earlier in this cycle than he did last time.
Platt, a 70-year-old retired federal employee and author of several volumes of poetry, said that he is a “man of faith” and a “spokesman for the Christian left.”
“The essence of the Christian faith is love,” he told me, “and it gets transformed and manifests itself as hate (by the Christian right)….I find a scriptural basis for all of my political positions.”
“As I get older, I view life as more precious,” he said. “I am against capital punishment. There are so many things that could be done to help the nation and the world, but neither major party has made a statement about capital punishment. The Bible says ‘thou shalt not kill,’ but it doesn’t say anything about an exception for capital punishment.”
Platt would like to bury the hatchet with the local Democratic Party, but he is not going away and he is going to apologize for being Green. It seems safe to say that we will hear more from this veteran politico in 2010.