What is it about South Carolina lawmakers? First there was Gov. Mark "Appalachian Trail" Sanford and his secret trip to Argentina to visit his mistress. Then there was Rep. Joe Wilson shouting "you lie" at President Obama during a speech. Now we have Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer comparing government assistance to poor people to feeding stray animals.
Bauer, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, said this at a town hall meeting last week:
"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed! You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that."
Bauer said Monday that he regrets his choice of words. "Do I wish I'd used a different metaphor? Of course I do. I didn't intend to offend anyone." But he still stands by the essence of his statement, that welfare recipients should try to better themselves.
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Even still, his Democratic opponents are outraged.
"I am disgusted by these comments. They show an unbelievable lack of compassion toward the unemployed workers in our state who are hurting during these hard times," said state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who is also running for governor. "His comments were immoral and out of line."
South Carolina schools Superintendent Jim Rex, yet another candidate for governor, called Bauer's comments "reprehensible" and said he should apologize.
According to an Associated Press report, the 40-year-old Bauer has a reputation in South Carolina circles for "reckless and immature behavior." In fact, what probably saved Sanford from impeachment was that no one really wanted Bauer to be the governor.
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Bauer was first elected lieutenant governor in 2002 at age 33. He ran on a separate ticket than Sanford, and the two reportedly have never developed a close relationship. In fact, Sanford's now-estranged wife supported Bauer's opponent in the 2006 primary.
While some say his latest comment will hurt him, Neal Thigpen, a political scientist at Francis Marion University said Bauer could do no wrong with many in South Carolina. "Don't count him out. The kid's got a fanatical following," Thigpen said. "They're going to forgive him almost anything and stick to him like glue."