Candidates are on the homestretch to the June 14 political primaries with some attracting more help – and opposition – than others from power brokers on high.
S.C. business leaders are backing 26 legislators – 19 Republicans and seven Democrats – in primary races, including three opposed by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley and a group supporting her political agenda.
The Good Government Committee, the political arm of the S.C. Chamber of Commerce, has donated to state Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence; state Sen. Wes Hayes, R-York; and state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Georgetown, who is running for the state Senate.
Chamber chief executive Ted Pitts said Thursday that Goldfinch, Hayes and Leatherman performed well on the chamber’s voting scorecards and, as a result, have his group’s backing.
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In at least three primary races, that support pits Haley against the business group and Pitts, a former chief of staff to Haley.
The governor is traveling the state to endorse GOP candidates who are opposing Hayes, Goldfinch, Leatherman and one other longtime state senator, Luke Rankin, R-Horry. A pro-Haley political group, A Great Day SC, also is running ads against the incumbents and for Haley’s primary picks.
Some at the State House were scratching their heads last week when Haley came out against Hayes, wondering why the GOP governor would go on the offensive against a fellow Republican who – unlike Haley’s other targets – is unlikely to say a cross word about anyone.
Hayes, too, said he was surprised, adding he sees himself as an ally to Haley on ethics and education issues.
But Hayes, a legislator of three decades, also has picked up more campaign reinforcements that could help him against the Haley attacks.
Last week, a group of educators – led by state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman, a Republican who has worked closely with Haley to push the governor’s education agenda – endorsed Hayes, calling him “a tireless supporter of public education in our state.
“His conservative, common-sense leadership in the South Carolina Senate has enabled true education reform and allowed for high-quality opportunities for students, parents and educators,” Spearman said in the endorsement.
The chamber’s Good Government Committee also is cranking up its onslaught against the re-election of state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg.
In radio ads against the second-term incumbent, the chamber group accuses Bright of holding state government “hostage,” blocking money for roads, aid for farmers and worrying about which bathroom transgender people choose to use.
In one radio ad, a re-enactment of a hostage situation, one man accuses Bright of “shutting everything down with a bill to mandate which bathroom people can use.”
“Son, this is Spartanburg,” another man replies. “We got that figured out up here.”
A green day in South Carolina
Green groups are celebrating a series of victories in the Legislature, something they don’t often experience in one year.
Lawmakers voted with environmentalists on more than a half-dozen pieces of legislation. Among those were legislation to stop oil pipeline companies from seizing people’s land, a bill to block new development from moving closer to the ocean, and a bill to restrict coal ash disposal in some landfills. The Legislature also did not pass a bill, opposed by conservationists, that would have limited pollution lawsuits by citizens.
“A lot of these things are kind of common sense,’’ said Ann Timberlake, director of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, which coordinates environmentalists’ efforts in the Legislature. “They make sense to people, and they make sense to businesses.
The only big loss for environmentalists was the 11th-hour failure of lawmakers to approve enhanced tax breaks for solar energy projects. The measure could have helped lure a solar farm to a hazardous-waste dump, located next to Lake Marion, to help defray the public’s cost of maintaining that closed landfill.
Amid a string of exit speeches by lawmakers retiring from office last week, state Sen. Joel Lourie’s stood out.
The Richland Democrat took the opportunity to roast his colleagues, including a couple of highlights that didn’t make it into print a day later.
Calling out “a few of (his) peeps,” Lourie pulled off a decent impersonation of state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland, a de-facto historian of the state’s Republican political revolution and its leaders.
“I’m not sure how I can go a week without hearing stories about Strom Thurmond or Ronald Reagan or Barry Goldwater, but I’m going to do the best I can,” Lourie said, imitating Courson’s drawl.
After calling Senate Minority Leader Nikki Setzler “the glue that holds this body together,” Lourie took a playful swipe at the Lexington Democrat, drawing big laughs with “a little story about Nikki.”
“So Nikki will call you, and the first thing he’ll say: ‘We never had this conversation,’ “ Lourie said.
“Sure it’s never happened to anyone in here. And then he’ll back it up with, ‘Just between you and me,’ and then – when he tops it off with, ‘Don’t say I said this’ – he will then tell you something you read on Fitsnews two days ago!”
To the Spartanburg Republican who Lourie says tried to convert him from Judaism: “Sen. Lee Bright, what can I say about you? Well, that’s about it.”