Calling the state government “broken and dysfunctional” and vowing to overhaul South Carolina’s failing education system not just “tinker around the edges”, gubernatorial candidate Phil Nobel promised to be a “big”, “bold”, agent of change.
By Laura Haight
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Phil Noble brought his “big and bold” campaign to Greenville, promising “something different” and vowing to clean up state government.
Addressing the Democratic Women of Greenville County, Nobel called the state government “broken, corrupt and dysfunctional.”
“It’s as if a disease of corruption has infected the statehouse and it’s contagious, it’s spreading, and it’s getting worse. You see it every day: someone else getting indicted, the utility scandal,” Nobel thundered. “Corruption is a product of a legislature that has been bought and paid for, and is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the utility companies.”
Energy, the SCANA scandal, and the impact of backroom, PAC-fueled deals was a major target of Nobel’s stump speech. He called for the state to return the full $9 billion paid out for “nuclear plants that will never be build and the juice you will never get.” He also called for a full, independent investigation. “I’m the only candidate – Democrat or Republican – who’s calling for an independent investigation. The Legislature cannot, he said, be trusted to launch a probe themselves when “31 of 32 members of the committee took money from utility companies.”
Nobel vowed that he would not accept money from any PACs or from the NRA – a decision that “puts me at a disadvantage.” But it’s a decision, he says, that’s in line with his believe that “PAC money corrupts the system.”
Nobel also targeted fixing the failing school system as “the single most important thing we’ve got to do”.
“We’ve got to start with pre-natal, not pre-K,” he said. “We cannot take this broken system and tinker around the edges. We’ve got to junk it and start over.”
Nobel promised to double the pay of teachers, to put a laptop or iPad in the hands of every student, and to build out “ubiquitous broadband” (broadband access to every corner of the state).
To loud applause, he also suggested a grassroots approach to curriculum development and methodology. “Let teachers decide what they want to teach,” he said. But that’s freedom that’s going to come with additional accountability including the establishment of goals, reviews of progress, and the ability to terminate teachers who cannot produce what they promise within a 3-5 year time frame. “We’ve got to have freedom and accountability,” he said, “and then I believe we will get radically better results.”
Both Nobel’s education and government reform proposals align with his insistence that “we’ve got to be willing to take chances and be bold and to do different things.”
Although his business experience (“I was a social entrepreneur before social entrepreneurism was cool.”) is extensive and innovative, there’s a pragmatist in Nobel as well.
“As Democrats, we can’t do any of this if we don’t win.” And winning, he believes, is possible. “Don’t let anyone tell you there aren’t enough Democrats in this state to win.” He pointed out that in 2016 Hillary Clinton got 168,000 more votes than Nikki Haley had two years earlier.
But those voters have to have someone to vote for. In his view, someone who is a “different kind of candidate with different ideas who is willing to run a different campaign.”
Bemoaning the last seven of eight gubernatorial elections, he said, “we ran with worn out, vague proomises, with no ambitions, no big ideas and we got beat. And beat. And beat. And beat…” He repeated the phrase seven times, emphasizing the abysmal record of the past, but promising he could deliver on a better future.
Riffing on the state’s motto, “While I breathe, I hope”, and the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Noble concluded that “Every generation is given the chance to make hope and history rhyme. That’s our generation. And we’ve got that chance.” If we are ready to go “big and bold and take a chance.”