Ballard Lesemann will have a story looking at Fritz Holling’s book “Making Government Work” in this week’s edition, but I wanted to blog about one passage on the long-serving S.C. politician’s approach to gay rights while serving in the U.S. Senate. It’s in Holling’s discussion of his reelection in 1992 while facing challenger Tommy Hartnett.
“Hartnett even used the racial preference ad that reelected Jesse Helms in North Carolina. This TV ad showed a white worker trying to get a promotion who learns that an African American was chosen instead so that his company could comply with affirmative action. Hartnett’s TV ad was on homosexuals instead of African Americans. Senator Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts had come to me one day with a proposed bill to eliminate prejudice against homosexuals. He said he wanted a southern cosponsor, and I agreed to cosponsor. This bill was to prevent discrimination, not to give preference, but Hartnett’s ad indicated that I favored homosexuality. It caused a “tempest in a teapot” in the Charleston area, where friends knew Hartnett and me, and the homosexual ad was pulled in the Lowcountry, but Hartnett kept it running in the Piedmont. I prevailed in the election narrowly — by just three points — but it was a sweet victory. … I had no regrets. The people sent me to Washington to use my best judgment.”
Look for Ballard’s story Wednesday.