By Jonathan Battaglia
Edited by M. Caroline Riser
Amanda Loveday's job is to wage war on Republicans and turn the political tide back in favor of Democrats who once ruled South Carolina.
She'll go on all day about Republicans cutting education funding and giving unnecessary tax breaks, but the 27-year-old executive director of the S.C. Democratic Party still finds time to share stories with her GOP foes.
"People will say ‘I can't believe you're friends with them,'" Loveday said. "But that's not the point. The point is their political beliefs might be different than mine, but that doesn't mean I don't enjoy having a sandwich with them."
Loveday says she's heard from all the naysayers, including some in her own family, that Democrats are an endangered species here. But those who know her say she's the right person to help lead the S.C. Democratic Party out of the political wilderness.
"Amanda complements her chairman well," said Matt Moore, Loveday's counterpart in the state Republican Party. "She is frequently the good cop to Dick Harpootlian's ‘in your face' bad cop. There's a method to their madness."
Harpootlian, a Columbia lawyer and former prosecutor, is known as state Democratic chairman for his cutting comments, and not only at Republicans, but at Democrats he feels are disloyal.
Loveday gets along with many Republicans, but still can't persuade her younger brother, Ryan Alpert, whose loyalties lie with the GOP, to switch sides. His most recent political jab was a text message that said "I just bought a sweater vest" – a nod to Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum.
The Carolina Reporter sat down with Loveday to find out what it's like to be a top Democrat in one of the most conservative states. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How do you change that perspective that Democrats can't be competitive in this state?
I think that, I mean, you do it slowly. You also have to look too that this exact same conversation was happening in the ‘60s in the Republican Party. You know, Democrats had control of everything. We had the governorship. We had the House. We had the Senate. We had senators who went to D.C. We had congressmen, and people were asking the Republicans, how can you get out of this ditch you're in? And so, politics is very cyclical. People are going to go with the tide every time. So, I think that, this is our time. We've had Republican control for 10 years. It hasn't gotten anywhere. We haven't gotten better in anything, and in a lot of things we've gotten worse. …
Do your Republican family members give you a hard time?
Yes, my stepfather, who recently passed away, but it's probably one of my favorite stories. I was on the television doing an interview the night of the Republican primary in January with Matt Moore, who's the ED of the Republican Party, and we were on there just kind of talking of talking back and forth and my mom and stepdad were watching and my mom calls me the next morning and she's like ‘hey, you know, you did great" and my stepdad gets on the phone and he says ‘I didn't believe a word you said, but you looked great! So they definitely give me a hard time and think that's it's silly." …
How did you become a Democrat?
You know, that's a very good question. I don't think I could pinpoint one specific thing for you. I definitely believe more in Democratic ideals. I think that there comes a time when people are in their lives and need help, and it's at no fault of anyone, but they've just been dealt a bad hand, and I think that it is our duty as Americans to help other Americans. … It's what our country was founded on, was to make sure that we open doors and have pathways available to anyone and everyone who is interested. … But I think that we definitely have a responsibility to take care of our own. …
I went to some workout class with my mom a couple months ago and I had just a Democratic shirt on. I think it might have been an Obama shirt. She looked at me and she said "why are you such a rebel?" And I was like "I'm not a rebel; this is what I believe in." …
Have you met President Obama?
I have. The picture behind you. I actually was the emcee at his event with Oprah when he came and spoke at Williams-Brice Stadium. I was approached by the Obama campaign. I was in the media at the time and so I think they wanted kind of a nonpartisan person to just take that position for whatever reason. My bosses had to think about for way longer than I wanted them to think about it, but when they said yes, I got to do that. … He was really down-to-earth, really nice, asked me tons of questions about myself. …