Senate Candidate Analysis: Det Bowers

Det Bowers

Today, we’re looking at one of the most colorful of the Lindsey Graham challengers: former pastor Det Bowers. This analysis is based on the criteria in my previous post, “What we need in a Graham challenger.

1. Prior political victories – “F”

Det Bowers has never run for office before. He does have some experience as a political operative from his years in the Democrat party.

That experience seems to be coming in handy: he appears to be running a well-organized campaign. (And for the record, the fact that he gained his experience as a Democrat shouldn’t count against him. Conservatives would do well to learn from Obama’s brilliant campaigning.)

However, the fact remains that he’s never been elected before. This means that a) his electability is only a theory at this point, and b) we don’t know for certain what we’re getting when it comes to his policies.

In the events and forums I’ve attended, Bowers doesn’t dig into the issues very deeply. When asked a question, he often soars off into sensational oratory instead of giving a direct answer. There’s nothing wrong with oratory, but it should be used to communicate your stand on the issues, not obscure them. (Patrick Henry didn’t leave anyone in doubt about where he stood.)

I frankly don’t feel confident that we know who Det Bowers actually is, and this is why the lack of a voting record is a huge liability. Besides, he needs to prove that his Republican conversion was genuine before we send him to the Senate.

2. Broad support base – “B-“

Bowers is trying to position himself as the candidate who can attract voters from every section of the Republican electorate. He is doing this by staying positive, to the point of being reluctant even to attack Graham.

Will it work? I don’t know. People say they dislike negativity in politics, but what they say and how they vote are two different things, as any political consultant will tell you.

I do think he’s making a huge mistake by not bringing the big guns out for Graham. In marketing, you identify your niche market, then customize your message to that audience. The electoral niche that makes a Bowers victory even possible is the crowd that’s mad at Graham. And that crowd will be unimpressed by a candidate that’s shy of calling a spade a spade.

Otherwise, I don’t think Bowers really brings anything new, and in fact appeals to the same demographics that Connor and Cash are extremely strong in,  sharing many of the same contacts. This is where multiple candidates become unproductive.

I think the Republican establishment would find him attractive, but most of these are loyal to Graham. Many voters would be attracted by Bowers’ kinesthetic style and approach, but I think you’ll find more of these in the general elections rather than in the Republican primaries.

Of course, this is all just guesswork. If you have thoughts on this, feel free to share in the comments!

3. Enemies – “C”

This is where things start to get interesting. As noted above, he is trying to attract everyone by staying positive, but that’s only going to make the anti-Graham crowd mad (and those aren’t the enemies he needs!). At the First Monday Club in Anderson, a friend of mine asked Bowers “if there was anyone he would not support in the runoff,” and he wouldn’t refuse to support Graham.

In subsequent forums in Aiken and Anderson he went more negative on Graham than he has before (still not that much), and he has said that he thinks any of the other candidates would be better than Graham. So maybe he’s realizing he needs to be a bit more direct. Unless that’s the case, though, his message is calculated to keep the wrong people happy.

Besides, Bowers supports a form of amnesty. Rather an unfortunate position in the guy who wants to replace “Grahamnasty.”

But, here’s where we get a monkeywrench in the equation. Whoever took the time to dig up tasty tidbits from Bowers old sermons and publish them evidently thinks he’s a threat, and the media has certainly gone crazy over it. When you’re running against Graham, the media is definitely included in the enemies you should have!

4. Fundraising ability – “A”

According to the latest fundraising report (filed in April) Bowers has raised $417,710 since January. By comparison, Richard Cash has raised $465,610 in the last entire year. If the primary were six months away and Bowers continued that rate of fundraising, that would probably propel him to frontrunner status.

As the primary was only a couple of months away at the time the report was filed, though, it merely makes him competitive.

5. Humility – “D”

My impression from hearing and interacting with Bowers is that he thinks he’s God’s gift to the electorate. I am not a big fan at all of candidates who have never been elected to anything before and breeze into a high-profile race singing “Here I come to save the day!” Dude, seriously. Go get some real-life elected-official experience and then we’ll talk about the U.S. Senate.

One key indicator of humility that I look for in a candidate is his willingness to support someone else as long as the job gets done. Bowers refused to sign the pledge to support whoever goes to the runoff with Graham. A friend of mine asked him why, and his answer was that he didn’t know enough about the other candidates, and the filing window hadn’t closed so there was no saying who would get in the race.

Who runs for office without checking out the other candidates to see if you’re even needed in that particular race to begin with? That looks a lot like personal ambition. The other possible reason is that, as he says, God called him specifically to this race. That may be. But nearly every Republican candidate in the South says the same thing. I have to analyze candidates based on facts, not divine callings.

And as for not knowing who else would enter the race, that just sounds like an excuse. For one thing, he could have signed the pledge after the filing deadline closed, and didn’t. Anyone would be better than Graham because turnover strips a bad Senator of seniority (and the resulting power), and sends a message about behavior the voters won’t tolerate. It is also easier to replace a relatively new incumbent than an old powerhouse. Besides, we have to think realistically. Who did he think might possibly enter? Al Capone? Seriously?

Finally, true humility understands that trust is earned by appropriate action, never entitled by position. In his announcement speech, Bowers said the following:

“[T]he issue is, who really can you trust?….Who can you trust in the first four years, as well as the last two? Who really can you trust?…

I’ve been there when you’re so weak and you’re in your hospital bed, you can’t get up. I’ve been there when there’s been domestic difficulties, and we worked through them. I’ve been there to baptize your children, and when your parents have died, I’ve taken their funerals.”

What he’s saying here is that if we would trust him with our spiritual health, he can surely be (and certainly should be) trusted to represent us in Washington. Three reasons that logic doesn’t hold up:

  1. A pastor can do all those things and still be a scumbag.
  2. I trust my pastor to preach the Word, but I’m not about to let him pull my tooth. The qualifications for the two jobs are different, and trust in each comes as they respectively demonstrate those qualifications.
  3. If a pastor has a servant’s spirit, he doesn’t serve to get something back. Which means, he’s not allowed to bring up past service when he wants something from them.

Besides, I thought Bowers didn’t vote in the primaries as a pastor for fear of unduly influencing his congregation. If that is such a big deal to him, I would think that he wouldn’t try to use his past service as leverage now. Seems a bit inconsistent.

6. A Clean Record – “D”

As noted before, Bowers was a very prominent former Democrat in years gone by, chairing the Democrat Party in SC and running a couple of statewide campaigns for Democrats (one of whom was Michael Dukakis).

However, he’s handling this narrative really, really well. He told me that it was before his conversion, and is very open about those years when it comes up at his events. I don’t think this is really going to hurt him. (Nor should it, in my opinion.)

The other issue that could hurt him is more serious. Since 2000 (which is as far back as the records go), he’s only voted in the primaries twice, once in the Democrat primary, and once in the Republican. Both, he said, were when personal friends were running, and in both he voted absentee to avoid being seen. As he saw it, voting in a primary could send his congregation “a message that I’m trying to convince them to vote like me.” And he was concerned that it might turn some off from his ministry.

Now honestly: when would a member of the Black-Robed Regiment be afraid of influencing his congregation? Does Bowers think Scripture is silent on public policy and the types of candidates we should vote for?

The Founding Fathers were very outspoken on voting as a sacred duty; what would they say about a pastor who preached election day sermons, but refused to lead by example because he was afraid of, well, leading by example?

As Rev. John Witherspoon, signer of the Declaration and the Constitution, once said,

Before any man among us was ordained a minister, was he not a citizen of the United States…? ….How then has he lost, or why is he deprived of this right? … Is it a sin against the public to become a minister?

Furthermore, this quote was in the context of ministers running for office, not merely voting.

And about those two exceptions where he did cast primary votes: was he making an exception to his principles when personal friends were involved?

Needless to say, Bowers isn’t handling the narrative very well at all on this one, and it may well damage his campaign.

7. Fortitude and Endurance – “A+”

As a former pastor’s daughter, I can testify personally to what pastors are up against. Anyone who is a successful, Bible-preaching minister has serious backbone. The life is actually very similar to that of an elected official, and the drama is often worse.

As a pastor, Bowers spoke boldly for Christ in unusual places, such as evangelistic ads in ball games. And while he’s caught a lot of flak for his remarks on divorce, the fact is that he knew that would be very unpopular with some, and he said it anyway because he believed it. I may disagree (and I do), but I respect him for it.

In addition to that, Bowers left the ministry (his livelihood) to focus on his campaign. That says commitment to me and I think he is fully equal to anything Graham can throw at him.

Conclusion:

I have emphasized throughout this series that it’s a huge risk to send someone to the U.S. Senate when we don’t have any way of knowing how they will actually vote, other than their word. Nowhere is this risk more evident than in Det Bowers. He has already proven that there’s sometimes a difference between what he says and how he acts, by his conduct in preaching election day sermons while being unwilling to vote in the primaries.

The first qualification given for civil leaders in Exodus 18:21 is “able men.” Bowers hasn’t proven that he is able to get elected, and to serve effectively. For a lower-level races with a shorter term and smaller district, I actively encourage newbies to jump in. These are the lions and bears our modern-day Davids need to conquer before we send them to take on Goliath in the U.S. Senate.

Most importantly, Bowers has not convinced me that he is running for the right reason, or that he would show strong, principled, uncompromising leadership as a Federal legislator. I can’t see his heart and I sincerely hope he would. But we can’t take chances with a 6-year U.S. Senate seat.

For all of these reasons, I don’t trust Det to represent me in the Senate.

What do you think? Does Det Bowers meet the criteria?

8 Responses to “Senate Candidate Analysis: Det Bowers”

  1. I think it would be well to mention, also, that we as voters should never, ever, trust our elected officials. We do our research, and vote for the one whom we believe will represent our values the best, but we should not EVER relax our vigilance over them.

    There are some very good elected officials in office today, some that we may be inclined to trust more than others, but no one is completely immune to the possibility of corruption. Especially in a long 6 year term such as this.

    Hence, I take issue with Det’s campaign asking us to trust him.

  2. NEWSFLASH!!!! Anyone that is voted to public office is initially vested with a significant amount of trust. If Graham is sent back, we are in effect trusting him again (at our conservative values’ peril I might add). So a candidate asking for trust is not an issue.

    Why I Trust: I trust his ability to frame a biblical worldview around the moral and spiritual problems of the nation. That “framing” turns into legislation and judiciary confirmations that are in line with the worldview and the values of the supporters. I trust Det to do the right thing in these matters.

    Why all the sudden does adding births, weddings, biblical worldview, funerals, etc (i.e., spiritual health/pastoral duties as you mention) to his resume of attorney, farmer, and businessman disqualify him to address the real issues? On the contrary, I WANT a candidate with the full package. (Besides, a dentist that can pull your tooth AND pray for you is a rare jewel).

    This review is not sufficient and is based on a surface level investigation. If you are truly trying to figure out who to vote for and want more info on Det, contact the campaign or have the administrator of this blog email me. I have known Det for years. I can speak from a perspective that is much deeper.

  3. You hit the nail on the head with #5.

  4. Stephen Blanton Reply June 8, 2014 at 7:23 pm

    Graham is pro-Obama, anti-2nd Amendment, and a well-established liar.
    Even if Det Bowers was a Democrat years ago, wouldn’t South Carolina be better off with a former pastor who might actually be a conservative, rather re-electing a known liberal like Graham?
    Det Bowers gets my vote for Senate.

    • Oh yes, for sure. I’d vote for Bowers in a heartbeat over Graham. But the number of challengers in the race give us the luxury of voting FOR somebody instead of merely against Graham. And I cannot vote FOR Bowers.

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