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Senator Ford: Fall From Grace
6/5/2013 4:09:14 PM

It’s been only a few days since Senator Robert Ford appeared before the State Ethics Commission to answer charges that he misused campaign funds but the Senator has been on this destructive road for quite some time. Ford elected to resign from Senate Seat 42 that he held for the past twenty years rather than face a second day of grueling questions by the Commission. The first day of the hearing, Ford vehemently denied the charges. He abhorred being painted as a “crook”. The Commission cited eight categories of financial and disclosure violations which included altering checks and paying personal bills and purchases out of campaign funds. Among the charges that stand out with me are the purchases of sexually explicit videos and male enhancement pills. How can Ford possibly defend such blatant ethic violations? 

Many of Ford’s supporters were caught off guard by the charges. There are those in Ford’s camp that are saying the Commission is on a witch hunt while others are saying they just can’t support the Senator in the latest charges. I don’t believe in kicking a man when he is down but I say wrong is wrong no matter who is doing it. And since this matter has been turned over to the Attorney General for possible criminal charges, Ford’s battle is far from over. I am hopeful that the violations are not criminal and just “sloppy bookkeeping errors” as the former Senator alleges. Sloppy bookkeeping is not an excuse for violating the public’s trust or misappropriating public funds. Elected officials are held to a much higher standard. 

Some of Ford’s longtime friends and supporters say they are still shocked by the news because he knows better. I am among those longtime friends who echo their sentiments, Ford knows better. He has spent the past twenty years in the Senate. While many of Ford’s followers have expressed sadness and compassion because of him having to step down, I am more disappointed than saddened. He has seen some of his comrades fall by the wayside for similar ethical violations. So, did he think he was invincible? 

Now that Ford has resigned, some familiar and some not so familiar folks are throwing their hats in the ring. Among the names being dropped are County Councilmember Teddie Pryor; Charleston County School Board member Michael Miller; Special Advisor, Department of Energy, Clay Middleton; Friends of Burke Peter Lawrence; Consultant and former State Highway Commissioner, Margaret Rush; Consultant and former City Council Member Kwadjo Campbell; South Carolina State Board of Trustees, Maurice Washington; Attorneys Marlon Kimpson & Dwayne Green; Fielding’s Funeral Home, Fritz Fielding; State Representatives Wendell Gaillard and David J. Mack, III. Before the June 20th filing deadline, there may be more hats tossed into the ring and others tossed out. 

Since Ford has had Senate Seat locked down for 20 years, I am hopeful that the people in his district will support a candidate with political experience. This is not the time to vote a novice into office. While Ford has accomplished some things, he leaves behind unfinished business. To those hopeful candidates, Senate Seat #42 is not about you; it is about the people. It’s not about your ambition but about the aspirations of the people who you are seeking to serve. 

Ford came to Charleston in 1969 to work with the striking hospital workers at MUSC who were later joined by hospital workers from Charleston County Hospital. He was a field organizer for SCLC. Emerging from the strike as both affable and a rabble rouser, Ford went on to win a seat on City Council where he often went up against the status quo. He was a controversial fireball that gathered steam as he went from City Council to the Senate fighting injustices. There was no middle ground when it came to Ford. It was either his way or the highway. You either like him or you don’t. Like the songwriter said, “I have done some good and I have done some wrong”; so it is with all of us. Sometimes we take the wrong turn along life’s highway but we back up, change gear and move forward. 

With Ford’s future dangling over a cliff and his health issues over the years, it is my hope that he will overcome this challenge. The sad ending to Ford’s career is he has repeatedly boasted honorably about the numerous times that he was jailed during the civil rights era; it is my hope that his tumultuous career does not send him back to jail for dishonorable conduct in office. 

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