The Accidental Candidate
Remember Alvin Greene? In 2010, he won the Democratic primary for Senator in South Carolina, although he was an unknown, unemployed veteran who did no campaigning and was running against a much better-known competitor, experienced politician Vic Rawl.
Two SC reporters, Corey Hutchins and David Axe, present his story in The Accidental Candidate. Their journalistic backgrounds keep the focus on the facts and dates, and as the indicia says, “Much of the information in this book was obtained from personal interviews or firsthand observation” although “some scenes have been dramatized.” There’s also a thank-you to the Columbia, SC, Free Times for “valu[ing] long-form, investigative journalism at a time when newsrooms have adopted a model of doing more with less.”
A four-page foreword by a state political adviser, William “Jack” Hamilton, who was an aide to the Democratic candidate who lost to Greene, sets the stage (marred only by being printed in what looks like Comic Sans, a font that should never be used in any professional publication). We open at Greene’s empty victory party, where the candidate is described by one reporter as
an unemployed, black Army veteran facing federal pornography charges and living with his father… who didn’t campaign, had no website, and doesn’t even have a cell phone
while we see Greene munching a sandwich. Flashbacks quickly take us through his life to that point. Greene seems like a supporting character in his own story, a representation conveyed by showing him as a loner and a loser who washed out of two National Guard stints.
To put the events in context, a brief history of the Tea Party is included, since Greene’s opponent, incumbent Jim DeMint, was heavily supported by the group. Although Greene spent his $10,000 in savings to file to run, there was chatter about his actions being some kind of Republican political tactic, since they’d done the same thing in 1990. There were also stories of voting machine irregularities, although the machines were never examined, and a protest over the results that went nowhere.
I really like Blue Delliquanti‘s open art and friendly figures. She could have used a bit more black to anchor the images, I thought, but her faces are key to making the cast seem like real people. Note that the unattractive cover is *not* representative of her interior art, another poor design choice. Check out the link above to her site for better examples.
The book can’t answer the question of Greene’s motives, since he wouldn’t say much even when interviewed, or what really happened, since no one knows. That makes this an ultimately frustrating read, with a lot of good ingredients here that don’t quite make a tasty stew.
Two text pages briefly provide a “where are they now?”-style summation of what happened to key players in the story, but the entire sequence of events remains a curiosity. Perhaps, in another decade or so, someone will finally spill the beans about what really happened. (My personal guess is that someone had a grudge against Greene’s opponent, Vic Rawl, and/or the voting machine maker had paid off someone, since I can’t figure out otherwise why the Democratic Party Executive Committee rejected investigating the unexplainable results in a closed-door session.) Until then, this graphic novel is a fun way to relive this oddity of political history. (The publisher provided a review copy.)