Alvin Greene Wages No Campaign, Yet Wins S.C. Senate Bid

Alvin Greene is the South Carolina Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate after winning by a landslide in a recent primary election. But Greene’s candidacy is being viewed as politically unorthodox, to say the least. He is unemployed, has no political experience, and did very little to campaign to become the first African-American major-party U.S. Senate nominee in South Carolina. Cord Jefferson, writer with the online magazine TheRoot.com, is one of the few reporters to interview Mr. Greene about his recent win. He discusses Greene’s unusual entrance into the political fray.

MICHEL MARTIN, Host:

I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News.

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But first, one more thing on this week's primaries. And it's one of the truly strange stories in politics this year. Alvin Greene is, by his own account, a veteran. He paid more than $10,000 to register to run for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate to challenge incumbent Jim DeMint, and then nothing. No campaign sign, no website, no buttons, nothing. That could be because he's also unemployed, by his own account. And he won.

He's been hard to reach since then. But Cord Jefferson writes for The Root and he spoke with Alvin Greene shortly after his victory this weekend. He's here with us to tell us more. Cord, welcome, thanks for joining us.

CORD JEFFERSON: Thank you so much for having me.

MARTIN: So, when you reached Alvin Greene, did you know anything about him?

JEFFERSON: No, I think that I was very much like most of the people in the media and really knew nothing about him. He really was a dark horse candidate who nobody - whose name sort of wasn't on anybody's lips in the previous weeks. But when he won, everybody was desperate to reach him.

MARTIN: You know, one of the mysteries here is that he's unemployed and he told you that he's been unemployed since he left the military.

JEFFERSON: Yeah, for nine months.

MARTIN: For nine months. So, how did he get $10,000 for the filing fee?

I just want to play a short clip from Jim Clyburn. He's a congressman from South Carolina. He's the Democratic Whip, the third ranking Democrat in the House, African-American, very irritated. And he's talking about - he's on Bill Press' radio program. And he suggested that this might have been some sort of a trickery.

JEFFERSON: A plant, yeah.

MARTIN: A plant. Here it is.

(SOUNDBITE OF CLIP, "THE BILL PRESS SHOW")

JIM CLYBURN: There were some real shenanigans going on in the South Carolina primaries.

BILL PRESS: Do you think he was a Republican plant?

CLYBURN: I don't know if he was a Republican plant, he is somebody's plant.

MARTIN: Is there any evidence of that?

JEFFERSON: Right now there is no evidence of that. And I think that the problem there is - the problem with that theory is that if you were a plant from the Republicans, it would be silly because Jim DeMint is heavily favored in South Carolina, and he would have beaten practically anybody that was running against him. And so it would sort of do, it would be of no benefit to the Republicans to spend $10,000 to put a person into the race.

MARTIN: You know, this was a decisive victory.

JEFFERSON: Yeah.

MARTIN: Who did he beat?

JEFFERSON: Sixty percent of the vote. He beat a man named Vic Rawl who was a four-time state legislator.

MARTIN: And he who spent, as you reported, almost $200,000 on his race.

JEFFERSON: Yeah, $186,000.

MARTIN: And is there a theory about why Alvin Greene won?

JEFFERSON: Some people say that's because Vic Rawl is white and didn't connect with the black voters, which I think, I sort of reject that theory. But I think the most common one right now is that alphabetically Alvin Greene's name came first on the ballot and so people who were uneducated about both people running just chose the first one they saw.

MARTIN: Did Alvin Greene campaign?

JEFFERSON: Alvin Greene literally did not campaign. He didn't...

MARTIN: Now, he told you he did, that he campaigned all across the state. But you found no evidence of that.

JEFFERSON: He said he - no evidence of that. He can't give any specific instances. He can't give any specific instances of speeches he gave or events that he held. So if he did campaign, he did it sort of under the radar, where nobody even heard about it.

MARTIN: On Wednesday the South Carolina Democratic Party formally asked Greene to withdraw his candidacy. And I also want to mention that this is the only example that either you or I could find of an African-American winning a statewide nomination...

JEFFERSON: Absolutely.

MARTIN: ...in South Carolina, which has a very large percentage of African- American voters, by the way, but they have not been able to translate that at the statewide political power as the case in a lot of the South. So they've asked him to withdraw his nomination. Any news there?

JEFFERSON: He says, as of now, he says that he refuses to do that. And in some ways I think that he's right to do that. Alvin Greene, I think that the flack that Alvin Greene is taking is interesting. Whereas people on both sides of the aisle, both conservatives and progressives are often saying that they feel that their leaders are out of touch and their leaders don't represent the common man.

Here we have somebody, Alvin Greene, who is very much the common man. And people, when he wins, then people are immediately so quick to dismiss him, which I think is strange.

MARTIN: Well, there is one other issue too, which he's accused of sexually harassing that college student.

JEFFERSON: That is true.

MARTIN: And he did not address those allegations with you.

JEFFERSON: He's refused to address those allegations with anyone.

MARTIN: And, finally, you wrote last week about what was regarded as a potential surge of African-American candidates in the Republican Party.

JEFFERSON: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Is there any news there? Did any of these candidates win so far?

JEFFERSON: Thus far, the candidates have continued to lose. I think in the South especially, the black Republicans have been getting sort of handily beaten. But we're still waiting on huge races with Allen West and Ryan Frazier and Vernon Parker in Arizona.

MARTIN: Well, keep us posted.

JEFFERSON: Absolutely.

MARTIN: Cord Jefferson is a staff writer for The Root. It's an online publication that focuses on issues of particular concern to African-Americans. He joined us in our studio. Cord, thank you.

JEFFERSON: Thank you very much.

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