|Democratic nominee for
United States Senator
November 2, 2010
|Opponent(s)||Jim DeMint (R)
Tom Clements (G)
August 30, 1977 |
Florence, South Carolina
|Residence||Manning, South Carolina|
|Alma mater||University of South Carolina|
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Air Force
Army National Guard
United States Army
|Years of service||1996–2009|
|Awards||*Global War on Terrorism Service Medal
*Air Force Good Conduct Medal
*Korea Defense Service Medal
*National Defense Service Medal
Alvin Michael Greene (born August 30, 1977) is a Democrat from South Carolina. He was the Democratic Party's nominee in the 2010 United States Senate election in South Carolina. He was defeated by incumbent Republican Sen. Jim DeMint by a margin of 61.46% to 27.65%, with most of the remaining votes going to Green Party candidate and environmental activist Tom Clements. He was the first African-American to be nominated for U.S. Senate by a major party in South Carolina. In the general election, Greene faced DeMint, Green Party candidate Tom Clements and write-in candidates Nathalie Dupree and Mazie Ferguson. Greene won the Democratic primary race against candidate Vic Rawl on June 8, 2010, with 59% of the vote, despite very limited campaigning and campaign spending, and having no website and no yard signs. The executive committee of the South Carolina Democratic Party voted 55 to 10 to reject Rawl's request for a new Senate primary after questions were raised about Greene's surprise victory.
Greene graduated from the University of South Carolina in 2000 with a degree in political science. He is a United States military veteran who served in the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force before receiving an involuntary honorable discharge in 2009. At the time of his Senate campaign, Greene was unemployed and living with and caring for his father in Manning. On August 13, 2010, it was announced that he had been indicted on criminal charges of showing pornographic pictures to an 18-year old female college student.
Greene was reportedly considering a run for President of the United States in 2012, but later declined. On December 24, 2010, Greene filed as a candidate in the Democratic primary special election for the South Carolina House of Representatives seat left vacant by the death of Representative Cathy Harvin. The primary was held on February 15, 2011; Greene received 37 votes.
- 1 Background
- 2 Senate campaign
- 3 Potential 2012 presidential campaign
- 4 Political positions
- 5 Questions about candidacy
- 6 Media coverage
- 7 Viral video
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Greene was born in Florence, South Carolina. His father, James Greene, Sr., is a retired teacher from the Clemson Extension program and was a barber and a nightclub owner. He was a prominent member of the community "who wanted blacks to play a bigger role in politics and entertainment" and "an outspoken activist for Democratic politics."
Greene graduated from Manning High School in 1995 and received a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of South Carolina in 2000. In multiple interviews, he's mentioned that throughout his late high school and early college years, his greatest inspiration was soul singer Neil Diamond. He served as an intelligence specialist and a unit supply specialist in the U.S. Army and has also served in the U.S. Air Force and the Army National Guard. He received the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Air Force Good Conduct Medal, the Korea Defense Service Medal, and the National Defense Service Medal. During Greene's time in the Air Force he received numerous poor evaluations from his superiors. The evaluations stated Greene was an ineffective leader who lacked organization and was unable to express thoughts clearly. Greene received an honorable but involuntary discharge from the Army in 2009 after a 13-year career and has been unemployed since.
Greene said that he originally got the idea to run for office in 2008 when he was stationed in Korea. In the South Carolina Democratic primary held June 8, 2010, he received 100,362 (59%) votes out of 170,215 votes cast, while 69,853 (41%) went to Vic Rawl. Voter turnout in most counties was in the range of 20-30%.
After Greene was declared the winner and Rawl congratulated him on his win, several state and national Democratic officials began to voice opposition and to raise questions about Greene and his campaign. South Carolina Democratic Party chairwoman Carol Fowler said she had not seen Greene since he filed to run. Clarendon County Democratic Party Chairman Cal Land told local newspaper The Item that local party leaders had not met Greene, that he had not attended any local Democratic events and had not responded to any invitations to local stump meetings. He did not attend the state Democratic party convention, did not file legally required forms with the Secretary of the Senate or Federal Election Commission, and attempted to pay his $10,400 filing fee with a personal check, rather than a check from a campaign account.
Greene was the first African-American to be nominated for the U.S. Senate by a major party in South Carolina. He was one of three black Democratic Senate candidates from Southern states in the 2010 elections; Greene, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Florida and Georgia Commissioner of Labor Mike Thurmond were all unsuccessful in their races. Six African-Americans had served in the U.S. Senate, but none from the South since Reconstruction.
The day after the primary election, the media reported that Greene was facing felony obscenity charges stemming from a November 2009 arrest for allegedly showing a pornographic picture on an Internet site to an 18-year-old female University of South Carolina student in a computer lab, and then allegedly saying to her "Let's go to your room." She then called campus police. The mother of the victim has claimed that USC authorities had warned Greene not to visit certain parts of campus in the past. Greene has since said that he was joking when he spoke to the student, and that he feels she owes him an apology for pressing charges against him. As a result of these charges, Fowler issued a statement calling for Greene to drop out of the race.
Greene refused to bow out of the race and announced that: "The Democratic Party has chosen their nominee, and we have to stand behind their choice. The people have spoken. We need to be pro-South Carolina, not anti-Greene." The executive committee of the South Carolina Democratic Party voted 5 to 1 to reject a call for a new Senate primary after Alvin's surprise victory.
Greene appeared on various news programs after his primary victory. He responded with short answers, refused to comment on the obscenity allegations, and rejected allegations that he is employed by the Republican Party.
On August 12, 2010, a Richland County grand jury indicted Greene for disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity — a felony — as well as a misdemeanor charge of communicating obscene materials to a person without consent. The incident took place November 4, 2009, at the Bates House residence hall on the University of South Carolina's campus. A female student, Camille McCoy, reported that a man later identified as Greene, sat down beside her in the computer lab. He asked her for her name, room number, and phone number, but she did not give it to him. She told officers that five minutes later, he told her to look at his computer screen which contained pornographic images on it. McCoy told him that it was "offensive and not funny". The incident report states that Greene proceeded to ask if he could come to her room, and she told him to leave her alone. McCoy described the event: "It was kind of scary. He's a pretty big boy. He could've overpowered me." She then went up to her room and told her resident mentor about the incident. McCoy also reported the incident to the campus police and her parents who demanded that the police press charges. A warrant for Alvin Greene's arrest was issued on November 9, 2009 and he was subsequently arrested.
In an affidavit against Greene, police say they have surveillance video which shows the interaction. When campus police arrived, they spoke to residence staff, who said Greene had been entering the Bates House for some time using an old university ID card with his picture on it. The staff had been told not to allow him inside the building anymore, but the person working that day had not been made aware of this information, and let Greene in as he normally did.
The first charge, of disseminating, procuring or promoting obscenity, is a felony and carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum fine of $10,000. The second charge, communicating an obscene message to another person without consent, is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum of three years and a maximum fine of $10,000.
On June 6, 2011, Greene accepted the Richland County prosecutor's offer to enter a pretrial diversion program which would expunge his record of both charges after completing a year-long course of counseling and community service.
Media coverage of campaign
Greene hired South Carolina attorney Suzanne Coe as his campaign manager. Coe said she offered to assist Greene after being struck by his honesty and selfless motivation. She said that "If Alvin tells you he's hiking the Appalachian Trail, he really would be hiking the Appalachian Trail. You can believe what he says." (In 2009, then-South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford had claimed to be hiking the Appalachian Trail to cover up an extramarital affair.)
A Rasmussen Reports survey released in early August of 500 likely South Carolina voters found that 20% of them backed Greene while 62% supported DeMint. As well, 51% of those polled said that they had a very unfavorable opinion of Greene. Although Greene repeatedly expressed interest in a debate, DeMint declined to participate.
The progressive watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Greene to their list of the 11 most crooked candidates vying for federal office in 2010. Greene took exception to this designation, saying that "I think my opponent should be on this list. He’s not doing his job and he doesn’t care about South Carolina or the United States of America."
On election day, Greene lost to DeMint by a margin of 63% to 28%, with Green Party candidate Tom Clements receiving 9% of the vote.
Potential 2012 presidential campaign
Greene reportedly asked the South Carolina Democratic Party how much the filing fee would be to run for President of the United States, after he lost the 2010 midterm election to Jim DeMint. He told The Daily Caller on November 9 that "We will have a Greene/Obama showdown in 2012." The next day, he confirmed to the Columbia Free Times that he was "seriously considering" a presidential campaign, although he was not sure for which party he would run. Greene justified his potential bid by saying "I'm the man. I'm the man. I'm the man. Greene's the man. I'm the man. I'm the greatest person ever. I was born to be president. I'm the man, I'm the greatest individual ever." A year later, Greene notified The Daily Caller that he would not seek the presidency.
During his campaign, Greene described himself as a moderate Democrat. His campaign slogan was "Let's get South Carolina back to work." Greene favored measures to lower the price of gas and supports offshore drilling. He supported a united Korea under a democratic system of government. He supported allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire and supported reform of the financial industry. Greene supported job creation, increased highway construction projects and pursuit of alternative energy sources. He also called for better school facilities and pay raises for teachers. On the subject of firearms, Greene said he supported the Constitution. Greene favored winding down the wars in the Middle East and "using that money for domestic programs, such as job creation, education, and Social Security."
In his first speech after winning the nomination, Greene proposed to spend more money on education, building highways and tourism infrastructure. He proposed to build new evacuation routes from the coast. He also wanted to expand water and sewer systems into rural communities, use renewable energy where it is possible.
Greene stated that the government should break up large banks, shut down payday lenders, and reform the debt collection industry. He also pledged to work to end free trade by enacting tariffs or banning the importation of foreign goods to the United States.
Greene strongly promoted idea of the reforms in judicial system to make sure that punishment fits the crime. Greene supported the idea that the severity of penalty for a misdeed or wrongdoing should be reasonable and proportionate to the severity of the infraction. He said that first-time non-violent offenders should have a chance to go into pre-trial intervention programs, instead of going to jail. “Fairness saves us money,” he said in an interview. “There are innocent people incarcerated. We spend more than two times of our taxpayer dollars on inmates than on students.”
In an editorial published in The Guardian as "The Alvin Greene manifesto for a fairer America", Greene explained his political views in more detail and attacked the political establishment. Greene advocated free universal health care, saying that the United States should model its system on Austria, Britain, or Canada.
Greene also stated that the United States should adopt a free college education policy modeled after the system that had been in place in Britain.
Greene cited the example of mismanagement at the Pentagon as proof that greater accountability in government is needed. He criticized corporate influence on politics, saying that "Half the members of the US senate work for BP. The other half work for Halliburton."
Questions about candidacy
Though his primary victory baffled many, several explanations have been offered. Some observers, including State Representative Bakari Sellers, have stated that the fact that his name appeared above Vic Rawl may have caused voters who were unfamiliar with either candidate to vote for Greene. South Carolina State Senator Robert Ford claimed that the surname "Greene" is common among African-Americans, and suggested that fact may have caused African-American voters to identify with him. Rawl has said there were problems with the voting machines.
Some speculated that Greene might have been a Republican plant. South Carolina Democratic Party officials noted that the practice of running select candidates to pressure candidates and influence election outcomes has occurred in the past, in both Democratic and Republican primaries. Nu Wexler, the former executive director of the South Carolina Democratic Party, commented "You have consultants doing this kind of thing just because they get bored, and they want something to tell good stories about. It's almost like fraternity pranks." House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the first African-American elected to either the House or the Senate from South Carolina since Reconstruction, said that he suspected that Greene was a plant, and although there was no evidence of any wrongdoing, Clyburn called for an investigation into the primary. Clyburn also alleged that two other African-American candidates, Gregory Brown and Ben Frasier, were plants. Brown campaigned against Clyburn for the 6th Congressional District seat, and Frasier beat state Democratic Party-backed candidate Robert Burton for the nomination in the 1st congressional district. Clyburn said he "just felt this was 1990 all over again", referring to the events in the 1990 primary in South Carolina when political consultant Rod Shealy recruited an unemployed black fisherman to run in a Republican congressional primary in order to boost white turnout for a different election on the same ballot.
Some commentators raised questions about the source of Greene's funding for the $10,440 filing fee. Federal and state law requires a candidate to pay a filing fee out of his own pocket. Greene claimed that he paid the filing fee by saving two years of his service pay. However, Greene qualified to be represented by a public defender in his obscenity case. South Carolina law requires defendants who want to be represented by the public defender's office to file an "affidavit of indigency" in order to prove they cannot afford to hire a lawyer. On this affidavit, the applicant must disclose all income and assets, including checking accounts. Former state Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian told NPR that this revelation raises doubts about whether Greene could afford the filing fee. Harpootlian also said that this gave W. Barney Giese, the solicitor (district attorney) for the 5th Judicial Circuit, which includes Columbia, to ask a judge to make Greene explain how he could pay the filing fee if he needs a public defender. Clyburn also doubts that Greene could have paid the filing fee on his own. Late on the afternoon of June 11, Fowler told WCNC-TV in Charlotte that the Federal Election Commission had launched a probe into where Greene got the money for the fee.
In response to an official protest filed by Rawl, the executive committee of the South Carolina Democratic Party conducted a formal hearing on June 17, 2010, to review questions regarding the legitimacy of the primary election results. Greene neither attended nor sent a representative to the hearing. The executive committee found insufficient evidence of impropriety, and voted to uphold the June 8 election results.
On June 27, 2010, the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division and the 5th Circuit Solicitor's office announced that they were investigating Greene's finances. On the same day, it emerged that Greene's public defender had been replaced by a private attorney.
On July 9, 2010, Greene was cleared of wrongdoing after a state criminal probe determined Greene had indeed paid the filing fee from his own personal funds.
Greene has been called an enigmatic figure in American politics. Much attention has been devoted to his manner of speaking due to his habits of frequently interrupting himself, halting mid-sentence, and saying "OK" between statements. He was frequently satirized in the media for this reason. At times, his jokes were not well understood by the media, such as when he told British newspaper The Guardian that one way to create jobs is to employ people to make "toys of me", or Alvin Greene toys. Greene later addressed this statement, saying that it was a joke geared for a British audience. The Charleston RiverDogs baseball team later held a promotion in which they gave away figurines with Greene's photo on them. Greene decried the promotion, describing it as tacky and pointing out that the statues did not look like him. Greene is the subject of a new feature-length documentary film entitled Who is Alvin Greene? directed[clarification needed] by David Garrett and Leslie Beaumont.
In late July 2010, a hip hop-based viral video titled "Alvin Greene is on the scene" became a hit on YouTube and other internet sites, garnering thousands of views an hour. It promoted Greene's candidacy and intermixed media clips of him with clips of LeBron James. As well, AutoTune was used to manipulate some of the lyrics. The video credits Greene as producer, director, editor, and "second camera", his father as the "first camera", and the music is credited to 'MC Grassroots feat, The Real Americans, mixxed [sic] by Defeat Demint Posse' (a reference to Republican opponent Jim DeMint). Jay Friedman, a San Francisco-based music producer, has come forward as the song's creator.
New York Times journalist Katherine Q. Seelye stated that the chorus "may be ringing in your ears for days after tuning in". NBC News journalist Ali Weinberg stated that the video combined "some of today's most overplayed elements of pop culture". CBS journalist Jaywon Choe labeled it "catchy" with "several noteworthy rhymes". CNN journalist Peter Hamby called it "catchy", "clever", and "the political jam of the summer" while also praising its "throwback hip-hop beat". Greene has since denied that he played any role in the production of the video, although he told Hamby that "It sounds good." He also said he hopes that "everybody hears it." Freidman has described the video as "jokey" and said that "[p]eople are willing to believe very strange things when they come from the internet." Greene also said that if he heard the song in a club, he'd dance to it.
At one point, YouTube administrators had removed the video due to a copyright claim by Frank Strategies, LLC. The video featured footage from a Tea Party rally in 2009 that is owned by Frank Strategies, LLC.
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- Profile at Project Vote Smart
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- Candidate profile at OurCampaigns.com
- Who Is Alvin Greene?, Suzi Khimm, Mother Jones, June 8, 2010
- Alvin Greene The Big Picture on SCETV, June 10, 2010 (video of interview)
- Democrats Are Hinting Foul Play In South Carolina Senate Primary, Ken Rudin, NPR, June 10, 2010
- ALVIN GREENE IS ON THE SCENE music video at YouTube
|Party political offices|
|Democratic Party nominee for United States Senator from South Carolina (Class 3)