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Politics: GOP women find their way into ‘liberal’ bastion

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Republicans were in the majority at a meeting of the League of Women Voters on Monday, Judy Clarke announced that night at a meeting of the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club.

“There were seven of us and five of them,” she said to a round of applause.

Though the League is nonpartisan, it normally attracts a more liberally-leaning contingent and its stances on issues are often opposed by conservatives. Declaring there was an “extreme bias” in the group, Clarke said in November that the GOP needed a presence in the party and she set out to establish one.

Members of the Georgetown County Republican Women’s Club have now been to as many League meetings as they have their own club meetings since the club was revived by Clarke in January. The club will have its third meeting at noon Monday at Applewood House of Pancakes, and Clarke is expecting at least 35 women, all of whom are active members of the group.

The new presence in the League resulted in what Sue Myers, chair of the League’s environmental resources committee, termed “some lively discussion” at this week’s meeting. Clarke questioned how the group’s agenda is set and said she is “sort of surprised how much attention is given to the environment,” though not because that isn’t an important issue.

Promoting a healthy environment is part of the national league agenda, Myers explained, followed by a reading from part of the group’s charter.

They talked about the balance between preservation and growth, and personal property rights versus the need for controls.

“I’m tired of people taking my rights and liberties away,” said Marla Hamby, a women’s club member.

“Who’s talking about that? What state in the nation doesn’t have permits and requirements,” Pat Lacy asked. “I don’t get it. I’m trying to get it.”

There were also questions about how the organization’s direction is determined (it goes from a local level to the state and then national convention.)

Though the discussion verged on heated at times, the League welcomes it. “We want to understand the other side,” Myers said. And Clarke said she’s enjoying the group and finds the people “delightful.”

It’s a good addition to the agenda of the women’s club she added.

“We’re going to participate anyway we possibly can because its an important part of our community,” she said.

With the interaction between the two contingents in the League and the growing interest in the women’s club, Clarke has a lot to be pleased about.

She didn’t know what to expect late last year when she agreed to take on the revival of the women’s club, she said. The group worked hard for GOP candidates in 2008 and it was at one of their meetings that Jill Kelso, a candidate that year for S.C. House District 108, announced her plans to run.

Club members were also effective locally in helping the Republican party to several key victories in 2010. But in off election years, it has a history of inactivity.

Tasked with bringing the club back to life for 2012, and hopefully maintaining its vitality beyond Election Day, Clarke hoped to get at least get 20 women central to the club in the past to come back again.

“I thought they might be interested, but being new to the area and not knowing the area that well, I just didn’t know,” she said.

Up to 40 women have been attending the monthly meetings and she hopes to see that number grow as the election draws nearer.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into it,” she said referring to herself and several key members, including Carole Faulk, Helen Haendle and Marla Hamby. They’ve put the word out to the community through other Republican groups and local media, and went to the expense of having post cards made and mailed to attract women to the meetings.

The group’s main goal is to make sure members are well informed by the time polls open. They’ve received updates from a number of candidates and, at their first meeting, from the county party chairman, Jim Jerow.

On Monday they’ll hear from three more candidates: Chad Prosser and Tom Rice, two of nine Republicans running for the new 7th Congressional District, and Stephen Goldfinch, candidate for state House District 108.

“Our basic agenda is to have an informed electorate,” Clarke said. “We’re also working toward voter registration and obviously [recruiting] poll watchers. We’re working toward getting ready for June.”

The GOP Women’s Club meetings are open to everyone. Lunch is Dutch treat.

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