The race for Chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party just went ballistic.
The early favorite, Dick Harpootlian, is running into a lot of resistance from Party stalwarts and key interest groups who recall his pockmarked record of five years as Party Chair from 1998 to 2003.
In a high profile speech before the black legislative caucus, Harpootlian's main challenger, Phil Noble, blasted the ex-Chair for belittling minorities and alienating two key Democratic voting blocs: African-Americans and the GLBT community.
Promising to turn a page on the era of racial discrimination, chauvinism and sexism, Noble defined the race as a stark choice between the New South versus the Old South.
As Party Chair ten years ago, Harpootlian made a series of snide comments that hit print and deflated the Democratic brand sending the Party into the doldrums.
To the shock of South Carolina's African-Americans, Harpootlian said, "I don't want to buy the Black vote, I just want to rent it for one day."
To make matters worse while he attempted to criticize Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Harpootlian slurred the entire GLBT community by defining the Republican politician as, "a little too light in the loafers."
That slur was not an off-the-cuff comment - it was an official Democratic Party press release written and signed by Dick Harpootlian. Predictably, Graham threatened to sue Harpootlian for libel after insinuating that he is gay, a riposte that backfired with the GLBT community where Harpootlian's slur still provokes anger and bitterness.
Harpootlian's gaffe-prone off-the-cuff style has left a lingering and disagreeable aftertaste so memorable that he has been forced to make the pledge that he will serve one and only one term as Chair, and no more. Harpootlian appears to have peaked too soon.
Phil Noble is the son of a white civil rights minister, J. Phillips Noble. Young Phil grew up during the era of marches, freedom rides, KKK atrocities and landmark legislation. FBI documents record the fact that Rev. Noble was targeted for assassination by the KKK, a period of time that shaped Phil Noble into a champion of civil rights, equal rights and GLBT rights.
In the intervening years, Noble soared to prominence as one of the world's leading political consultants with a lengthy client list in the USA and Europe and working in major campaigns in over forty foreign countries. In the early 1990s, Noble became the world's leading authority on the political impact of the internet. Regarded as one of the gurus of the IT industry, Noble has pledged to turn SC blue in this campaign cycle. In 2008, Noble advised the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.
Noble is the President of SC New Democrats and a former fellow at the Harvard Institute of Politics of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
This race just got interesting.
It is definitely one to watch.