TIME: As recently as Memorial Day, Alvin Greene was an unemployed 32-year-old, 13-year military veteran who had been involuntarily discharged from both the Army and the Air Force and was facing an obscenity charge for allegedly showing a teenage stranger online pornography in a college campus computer lab (Greene has denied comment, but he is fighting the charge). What he became after winning 59% of the vote in the June 8 Democratic primary is now in dispute. To Representative Jim Clyburn, the state’s most powerful Democrat, Greene is a pod person of unknown origin — “someone’s plant.” To his older brother James Jr., Greene is nothing more than a loner with a dream of making good — “like someone coming up saying, ‘I’m going to fly to the moon.’ ” To Vic Rawl, his well-funded opponent, Greene is the possible beneficiary of a historic voter-machine malfunction or, worse, a stolen election.
Greene maintains that the answer is much simpler. “I am the best candidate for the United States Senate in South Carolina,” he says, hitting his talking points, as he is apt to do. “And I am also the best person to be TIME magazine’s Man of the Year.” He is speaking now, between trips to the kitchen, in the living room, while his 81-year-old father James Sr., barefoot under a flannel blanket, dozes on the couch. Suddenly the television flashes to Greene’s face, with a Fox News announcer teasing an upcoming segment about the newbie’s “mental state.” Greene’s election has become the whodunit of the political year, with a formal protest filed with the state Democratic Party, a legal challenge before the Federal Election Commission and endless local chatter about how a man with no real campaign, who gets information “mainly” from television, defeated the party-endorsed standard bearer, a retired judge who had printed 10,000 bumper stickers, logged 17,000 miles crisscrossing the state in his hatchback and paid for 220,000 autodial phone calls before election day. MORE