The Alvin Greene Scam: It Lives!

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 5 2013 2:12 PM

The Alvin Greene Scam: It Lives!

Ben Frasier is a paper candidate. In 1972, the mysterious black guy put his name on the ballot to run as a Democrat in South Carolina's 1st district. He did no interviews. He made no public appearances. He lost. So he ran again in 1974. He ran again in 1976. He ran in 1978, 1980, 1982. In 1996, he ran against Rep. Jim Clyburn in the 6th district. In 2004, he ran in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate. Then it was back to the 1st district, where he ran in 2006, in 2008, in 2010 -- when he won the nomination. It didn't get as much coverage as the similar story of Alvin Greene, but in South Carolina's first, the district that elected the first black South Carolina Republican congressman in a century, the Democratic nominee was some black guy who never campaigned.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

Fraiser returned this year. He was the token opposition to Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who was the choice of national Democrats. Frasier, finally a little infamous from his 2010 run, got a mere 4 percent of the vote. Then he endorsed Mark Sanford.

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — The Democrat who opposed Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the primary for a vacant congressional seat has endorsed her Republican opponent, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Ben Frasier got only 4 percent of the vote last month against Colbert Busch, the sister of political satirist Stephen Colbert. Frasier says that he's a conservative Democrat and that Colbert Busch doesn't represent the district's conservative values.
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Hey, maybe a little context would have helped? Frasier isn't just "the Democrat who opposed" the nominee. He's a kook who runs every year. The paper candidate is one of the sad features of our politics -- the nobody who keeps putting his name on ballots in the hopes of fame or just delirium. (Texas voters have hopefully forgotten about "Gene Kelley," a guy who never talked to the press but once sleepwalked into the nomination for a U.S. Senate race, because voters thought he was the famous dancer.) Yes, it's amusing that Sanford gave the Frasier endorsement an actual press release. ("I’m pleased to receive Ben’s support, and think it will prove to be indicative of the support we’ll be getting from a wide range of people across the district.")

A single line about Frasier being a "perennial candidate" might have told readers that they were dealing with a kook. Instead, they get a quick squib that legitimizes the criticism of Alvin Greene 2.0.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.