Whenever you have a scorned former county employee-turned-politician running against a seated elected official and a political newcomer all in one race, chances are that petty politics will quickly rear its ugly head.
This past week, the knives came out against a candidate for Columbia County chair, Pam Tucker.
And, unfortunately, a local nonprofit with a great reputation got caught in the middle.
Basically, Tucker, who is a longtime supporter and board member of Shepeard Community Blood Center, decided to use her close relationship with the nonprofit to boost her political support by sponsoring a blood drive event scheduled for Saturday, February 24.
The “Cause Change” community blood drive was being promoted by Shepeard on the organization’s website and printed materials listing the “Committee to Elect Pam Tucker CC Commission Chair 2018” as its first sponsor.
The event was also promoted on the “Pam Tucker for Commission Chair 2018” Facebook page through several posts along with a Facebook Live video where Tucker invited folks to come out and donate some blood while they’re picking up Tucker campaign signs, T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Well, the problem is, it’s against the federal regulations for nonprofits to engage in “political activities.”
All of a sudden, Shepeard Blood Center found themselves in hot water.
After a few local critics of Tucker began openly complaining and pointing fingers at both Tucker and Shepeard Blood Center, the blood drive was quickly canceled.
Rules are rules, so Tucker and the administration at Shepeard Blood Center should have known better.
The last thing Tucker, as a candidate for political office, wants to do is make a local nonprofit that she has supported for years look bad publicly.
It was a terrible move on Tucker’s part as well as Shepeard Blood Center, but it’s also a no-win situation for the public to cancel the blood drive event.
Sure, Shepeard Community Blood Center can have a blood drive anywhere it wants, but this event was highly promoted throughout the county, and now it’s completely canceled.
But that wasn’t Tucker’s only misstep that was exposed this week.
Columbia County resident Trey Enfinger, who also went to social media to complain about the blood drive, is questioning the creation of the “Pam Tucker for Commission Chair 2018” Facebook page.
Back when Tucker worked as the longtime EMA director for Columbia County, she had an extremely popular Facebook page.
Thousands of local Columbia County residents liked the Facebook page in order to get updates on the weather or traffic or any public safety hazards in the area.
Well, before Tucker resigned as EMA director last year, Columbia County Administrator Scott Johnson directed Tucker to stop using the Facebook page that she created as the county’s EMA Facebook page.
Johnson wanted all of the county notifications to come from an official Facebook page created by the county.
Well, when Tucker quit her job as EMA director, she apparently took with her the Facebook page that she created that had more than 9,600 followers.
Now remember, everything posted on that page to that point was basically in Tucker’s official capacity as EMA director. She already had a separate personal Facebook page.
So, who cares, right?
Here’s where things get a little tricky.
After leaving her county job, she simply renamed her former Pam Tucker EMA page to the “Pam Tucker for Commission Chair 2018” Facebook page.
So those previous 9,600 followers of Pam Tucker’s EMA Facebook page that liked it to make sure they knew about approaching severe weather or bad road conditions, all of a sudden became followers of “Pam Tucker for Commission Chair 2018.”
Each day, followers of Tucker’s new page get posts about the campaign, such as this Feb. 18 post from Tucker: “Today, I stand more motivated and determined than ever to win this election. Help me by supporting the change that we so desperately need in this government. It is becoming more apparent how badly change is needed with each passing day.”
Not exactly an update about heavy rain or heat advisories.
But, ironically, Tucker is still doing a little bit of that, too. For example, she warned local residents of a dense fog advisory this week, as well.
The point that critics such as Enfinger are trying to make is, Tucker changed the purpose of her original Facebook page and kept all of her followers of the EMA page to help promote her own campaign.
But Tucker, who actually responded to Enfinger’s criticism of her page via social media, believes she has done absolutely nothing wrong.
“I continue to post community information on my pages, and you are most certainly welcome to unlike at any time you want to,” Tucker posted on Enfinger’s Facebook page. “Makes no difference to me.”
This race is already getting ugly, and it’s only February.
Voters have more than two months of campaigning still to endure.
Hang in there, folks. This is going to be a long and ugly campaign season in Columbia County.