In an interview with the Charleston Post & Courier, Summey chalked his decision to switch parties up to fiscal conservatism and Democrats support of the National Labor Relations Board. It’s a big change considering Summey’s 2008 campaign mailers featured photos of himself with presidents Obama and Clinton. Summey is also frequently critical of Republican Gov. Nikki Haley on Twitter, which certainly doesn’t bother us — though the conservative base Summey would need to attract in a Republican Primary might disagree.
Summey has been toying with the idea of challenging Republican state Sen. Larry Grooms since at least November, when he told political consultant Wes Donehue he doubted he could beat Grooms in a GOP primary after switching parties. It seems Summey has changed his mind since then — or maybe the recent county-wide redistricting plan helped change it for him.
“I haven’t ruled anything out,” Summey told the Post & Courier. “I’ve got a real burning in my belly for public service.”
But is Councilman Summey’s party switch about public service or political expediency? After an election year like 2010, where Republicans captured every statewide office, it’s easy to see how Summey might conclude that enough South Carolinians will vote for anyone with an ‘R’ next to their name — well, almost anyone.
Several high-profile South Carolina Democrats have successfully switched to the Republican Party, most famously Strom Thurmond in the 1960s. The 1994 Republican gubernatorial primary was between David Beasley and Arthur Ravenel, both of whom were once Democrats. Summey’s own father, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey, switched parties over 20 years ago.
But times have changed in a state where not even Bob Inglis is considered conservative enough, and Councilman Summey’s decision to switch parties may end up more like Arlen Specter’s than Strom Thurmond’s. No matter how conservative Summey may have become, it’s hard to see how he would survive a primary with tea partiers calling him an Obama-loving Haley-hater.