David Schwacke, South Carolina, 1992
David Schwacke (R)
Born December 2, 1956
9th Circuit Solicitor
Charleston, South Carolina
Appointed March 1992
Elected November 1992
News Article about David Schwacke
S.C. Solicitor's Sexuality Could be Primary Issue
by Lyn Riddle
Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 13, 2000 (excerpt)
Ralph Hoisington believes his opponent's homosexuality is like the big white elephant sitting in the corner: Everybody sees it but no one wants to talk about it. The opponent, 9th Circuit Solicitor David Schwacke, who is vying today for a third term as lead prosecutor for two South Carolina counties, believes otherwise. He thinks there's plenty of talking about it going on and it's all innuendo coming from Hoisington. The contest for the Republican nomination has become the most talked-about race of the primary season in this historic port city where manners and breeding are as vital to life as the sultry salt air and the plentiful, moneyed tourists.
Schwacke, 42, the only openly gay Republican officeholder in the South, is seeking re-election for the first time since making public his sexual orientation. The declaration already has cost him the support of the party's vocal religious right. Three years ago, a group of Christian conservatives sought a criminal investigation of Schwacke, who they claimed used his office computer to download pornography. The ensuing commotion moved Schwacke to tell a local newspaper columnist that the rumors that he was gay, which had been circulating since he and his wife separated, were in fact true. Ultimately, Schwacke was cleared of wrongdoing, but the religious conservatives never came back to his side. Many have contributed to Hoisington's campaign.
Hoisington, 52, who owns a private law practice in downtown Charleston, said he has tried not to make an issue of Schwacke's homosexuality. He said, however, the years since Schwacke's revelation have been "problematic. His office has spiraled into disarray," he said. Convictions are down; the backlog is up. These conditions might or might not be caused by Schwacke's marital discord, Hoisington said.
But Schwacke counters that numbers can be used to depict whatever someone wants to show. His office of 27 lawyers has one of the largest backlogs in the state, but every circuit has seen an increase. Moreover, he said, he is working with fewer lawyers than the other large cities in the state, and from a temporary courthouse with only three courtrooms. The 9th Circuit includes Charleston and Berkeley counties. Schwacke said he believes the death penalty criticism is a veiled way of pointing out his homosexuality, of saying he is somehow soft. Likewise, he believes Hoisington's campaign slogan "for our families" is yet another jab, as is a television ad that began last week in which Hoisington promises to get tough with sexual predators.
At the only debate the two have had, the first question was whether Schwacke would have trouble prosecuting sexual predators. Schwacke said that plays to the most egregious stereotype people have of homosexuals. "Statistics show most pedophiles are straight," Schwacke said, noting that his office recently prosecuted a former teacher who had abused dozens of children over a 40-year period in public schools and in one of Charleston's most prestigious private schools.
Schwacke and Hoisington have known each other for years, ever since they worked together in the solicitor's office during the 1980s when the office was headed by Charlie Condon, the staunchly conservative South Carolina attorney general. Hoisington was the deputy solicitor when Schwacke was hired. Hoisington left to start a private practice; Schwacke stayed on and was appointed solicitor in March 1992 when Condon became attorney general.
Schwacke said for a time he considered not running again, but a talk with his mother convinced him he should. She asked him whether he still loved the job and whether an opponent could say anything worse than what had already been said. That put things into perspective for him, he said. He was asked to switch to the Democratic Party, but he said he didn't seriously consider it. The Republican Party standards of fiscal prudence and less government still fit his beliefs. "The revelation of me being gay shouldn't be interpreted as a shift in philosophy," he said.
Yet, some here believe the party has left him. Hoisington has raised $120,000, four times as much as Schwacke, who in the last general election before – he revealed that he is gay – had no opposition in either the primary or general election.