Senate Candidate Analysis: Bill Connor

Analysis of Bill Connor for US Senate

Today I’m continuing the series of Senate candidate analyses with a look at Bill Connor (previous posts in the series are here and here). This is based on the criteria in my post from September, “What we need in a Graham challenger.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and perspective in the comments.

1. Previous political victories – “D”

As I noted in my original post, previous victories are important for two main reasons: we need the assurance that the candidate can actually win an election, and that he can serve effectively.

Bill Connor is the only candidate who has run a statewide campaign, so he has a level of experience and name recognition that is helpful. That said, he has has yet to win an election.

On the policy side, he seems to be pretty well-versed in the Federal policy issues, and well-read in the role of government. I am as confident as I can be in the absence of an actual voting record that he would be a true conservative.

In the absence of previous victories, his ability to serve is hard to gauge. While Connor is a bulldog for what he believes is right, there is also some bull-in-a-china-shop potential as well. Coming face-to-face with the reality of politics last time around seems to have had a steadying, seasoning effect, but the campaign trail is likely to be a cakewalk compared to the office of U.S. Senate. I think he needs some lower-level political experience first.

2. Broad support base – “A”

No question about this one – Connor is the military candidate. This isn’t an accident, it’s part of his brand. As a soldier, he’s familiar with a lot the other candidates don’t really know much about and he’s hoping to peel off some of the national security votes that comprise some of Graham’s most solid supporters.

Connor does seem to appeal to other constituencies as well, such as the Tea Party crowd and the Evangelicals. These along with the military crowd seem to comprise the majority of his support. He does pitch to small businesses as well, although I don’t really see them as a main constituency.

However, if you consider the demographics of South Carolina, a candidate with strong military, Christian, conservative appeal is going to resonate with a pretty large proportion of the state.

3. Enemies – “A”

Connor is the sort of guy that you either like or hate. Conservatives love his hard-hitting attacks on liberal and moderate policies, and liberals will absolutely hate them. Either way, Connor doesn’t leave you in doubt as to which side of the isle he’s on, and woe to you if you’re on the other side.

4. Fundraising ability – “D”

According to the last fundraising report, Connor has raised only $43,796.00. He has invested $210,000.00 of his own money in the campaign, so he has a lot more cash in hand than just the funds he has raised (enabling him to start running tv ads).

Cash on hand is necessary, and investing personal funds speaks well to a candidate’s commitment level. However, it’s a red flag when a candidate struggles at fundraising.

As I mentioned in a comment discussing Richard Cash’s fundraising, it’s not just about the money: when people donate, that solidifies their support, bringing along a host of other benefits. Plus, fundraising is a real indicator of traction. When Obama ran against Hillary, he was largely funded by small donations from people everywhere, and his campaign rightly interpreted that as a sign of real grassroots support.

5. Humility – “C”

Every time I post an analysis on this point, I feel like I need to also give a disclaimer. I can’t see anyone’s heart, and I realize that. However, one of the most dangerous traits of a politician is pride, and we need to be looking for the signs early. Scripture commands us not to judge, but does command us to analyse the fruit that we see (there’s a big difference).

I really appreciate how Connor hasn’t been attacking the other candidates, instead focusing his guns on Graham in solidarity with the other challengers. He was one of the four who signed the pledge to support whoever makes the runoff with Graham. It takes humility to care more about the job getting done than who does it.

Connor is also term-limiting himself. I used to oppose the idea of term-limiting oneself when the rest of Congress doesn’t, but the longer you’re in office the more danger you have of being corrupted. I think Connor realizes this, and the term limit is a safety measure on himself. It takes humility to understand your fallibility and make provision for it.

There is one troubling thing about Connor. If you push his buttons right (see point #6 below), he’s extremely thin-skinned and appears to take himself way too seriously. No candidate should feel that he’s above being questioned about his personal life.

Founding father Samuel Adams once said “The public cannot be too curious concerning the characters of public men.” Connor appears to consider himself an exception to that rule, and reacts accordingly if questioned too closely. That’s not humility.

6. A Clean Record – “D”

There’s a rumor that Connor had an affair. I first heard it when he ran for Lt. Governor, and as these sorts of rumors do, it has resurfaced. The alleged affair was reportedly years ago prior to his becoming a Christian, and he and his wife have worked through it. If that’s the case, then he should not be unwilling to be open about it.

I called him with some questions, this issue being among them. However, as I approached the topic, he cut me off and smacked me down, saying this type of question wasn’t respectful. I told him I understood and respected his position, and I do. If he doesn’t want to discuss it, I won’t press it.

But does he think that Lindsey Graham will be that respectful?

Connor obviously has something that he wants to be off-limits. A ruthless opponent will take advantage of every chink in his political armor, not just on the campaign trail but in office. How does he think the establishment gets so many legislators to compromise? At this point, Connor’s past isn’t his own issue anymore: it’s a liability to the whole state if he doesn’t handle it right.

Connor could diffuse the situation by simply stating (if it is indeed the case) that he did have an affair, that God has redeemed him and changed his life, and his marriage is now stronger than ever thanks to God’s grace. It would be a beautiful story of redemption that no one could attack. And if the affair didn’t happen, he could just say so.

If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. Complete honesty is hard to attack, but secrecy makes ruthless politicians salivate.

7. Fortitude and Endurance – “B”

Based on my observation, Connor has a backbone of steel. He is the only one of the candidates who has seen actual combat service, and that does something to a man’s character. He had a rough time in his Lt. Governor bid, but came out stronger for it. His family is behind him.

But this is where how he’s handling the affair rumor is a real concern. If Graham were to drop a series of attack ads and flyers all over SC about this and the media went wild with insinuation and speculation, how would he handle that? If he couldn’t handle a polite phone call, is it unlikely he would go all Herman Cain on us and drop out, or fly completely off the handle?

We don’t know. And that’s why the fearlessness of a clear conscience is so essential to the endurance needed in any candidate taking on the establishment.

Conclusion

I like Bill Connor a lot. I have been really impressed with his overall character, his articulation of the issues, and his conservatism. He does have some serious liabilities as well, but nothing that can’t be fixed. I think he would make an excellent Senator down the road, but he’s not the guy we need in the Senate right now.

I would love to see Connor run for state office, and would likely support him (as I did when he ran for Lt. Governor). He has a lot of potential, especially as he grows through his political experience. While I am not supporting him for Senate, he is my second choice in the current field of candidates.

What do you think? Does Bill Connor meet the criteria?

3 Responses to “Senate Candidate Analysis: Bill Connor”

  1. Connor is definitely NOT the man in this race. He dodges real questions about his past (probably because he is hiding something), his campaign is poorly run, and his minions are attacking other candidates to try and get ahead.

    • I can’t speak to the running of his campaign, as I haven’t been following that part closely. He told me himself that he was saving a lot of his resources for the push leading up to the primary, and had learned the hard way last time around that you don’t want to spend everything you have too early in the race. All I can say is that I’m glad I’m helping with a State House race, and not a statewide race. 🙂

      Who are you referring to exactly when you say “his minions”? I know there’s been some tension in the Tea Party crowd over which candidate to support, and I wouldn’t pin any of that on any of the candidates themselves. Other than that, I haven’t heard a whole lot about attacks between the campaigns.

      • I’m pretty sure that if someone uses the term ‘minions’, they’re referring to the Tea Party crowd.