November 1, 2014

Despite endorsement, Ervin says he and Sheheen do have differences


Tom Ervin announced his gubernatorial campaign in late March (File)

Tom Ervin announced his gubernatorial campaign in late March (File)

After dropping out of the governor’s race and endorsing Democratic State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, independent candidate Tom Ervin said he and Sheheen do have their differences.

“I called out Senator Sheheen in the debates when I thought he was wrong. And we had a lively debate. It comes down now to who is going to be our next governor.” Ervin told Charleston affiliate WQSC on Friday.

He admitted during a separate interview with Greenwood station WCRS (also a SC Radio Network affiliate) that endorsing Sheheen was “the lesser of two evils.”

“If you look at Governor Haley’s stale record as governor, she is really not deserving of a second term,” he told WCRS’ Anne Eller. “So, for those reasons, I believe Senator Sheheen is the lesser of two evils, so to speak.”

Ervin said he did want to make a difference by running. “Had I not been in the race issues would not have been raised,” he said. “Like my plan to fix our crumbling road and bridges, my plan to cap college tuition for incoming freshmen to reduce their student loan debt, my plan to enact strong ethics reform.”

Ervin was polling a distant third when he dropped out on Tuesday, despite spending at least $2.5 million of his own money. He had been billing himself as an “independent Republican” after dropping out of the GOP Primary to campaign as a petition candidate for the November election.

The former Democratic legislator and judges said he entered the race at the last minute because he was upset about testimony concerning the South Carolina Department of Social Services mishandling cases where children under their purview had died from abuse and neglect.

He set out a path as a self-proclaimed “independent Republican” – calling for an end to the Common Core education standards while backing expanding Medicaid and raising the gas tax to help pay for road repairs.

Ervin cannot use the remaining $1.2 million in his campaign account to aid Sheheen’s bid to unseat Haley.

The Greenville attorney and radio station owner was a Democrat when he served in the S.C. House in the 1980s but switched parties to run unsuccessfully for a House seat in 2005.

Election for Harrell’s old House seat will occur Tuesday, after all

Democratic Party nominee Mary Tinkler(Image: Mary Tinkler for SC House)

Democratic Party nominee Mary Tinkler(Image: Mary Tinkler for SC House)

An election will occur on Tuesday after all for the South Carolina House of Representatives  seat belonging to former Speaker Bobby Harrell.

The state Supreme Court on Friday stayed a decision by the South Carolina Election Commission from Thursday that would have delayed the House District 114 race until Republicans could nominate a new candidate to replace Harrell, whom the commission ruled was disqualified by a guilty plea last week. The Democratic candidate for District 114 Mary Tinkler, who is expected to gain the most votes without a Republican on the ballot, had appealed the commission’s decision.

But the Supreme Court did not rule on the merits of the case, the justices only blocked the postponement until they could consider it. That means the justices could still decide to order a new special election after hearing arguments from both sides at a later date.

Charleston County Democratic Party chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan praised the court’s order, accusing the Republican-appointed Election Commission of trying to “hijack” the election. “We are thankful that the Supreme Court is following the rule of law and allowing the election to move forward as scheduled,” he said in a statement.

The Election Commission decided Thursday to delay the House District 114 election in order to give Republicans enough time to nominate a replacement for Harrell, who agreed to no longer seek reelection as part of a plea deal reached with prosecutors last week. The SCGOP and Charleston County Republicans had argued Harrell’s sudden ineligibility met the standard for a new primary. However, state law does not specifically address what to do if a political party does not have enough time to certify a new candidate between that candidate’s withdrawal or resignation and Election Day. Democratic attorneys maintained that the GOP has missed its window to pick a new candidate.

The court’s ruling means that, while Harrell’s name will appear on the ballot next week, only votes for Tinkler or Green Party candidate Sue Edward will count in the heavily-conservative district.

Republicans held out hope that the court would still rule in their favor upon considering the arguments after Election Day. “We appreciate the Supreme Court giving this issue the full consideration it deserves,” SCGOP Chairman Matt Moore said in an email. “The Republican Party will continue its work to give voters choices in House District 114.”

But Democratic Party leaders said Republicans already had their chance in the election, with State Chairman Jaime Harrison calling the Election Commission’s original ruling a “critical threat to our democratic system.”

“Bobby Harrell’s voluntary plea should not allow any party the opportunity for a do-over simply because they nominated a criminal in the primary,” he said in a statement. “Allowing political parties to use disqualification as a political stall tactic undercuts voters’ confidence in our elections.”

Two rumored presidential candidates (1 D and 1 R) coming to SC this weekend

Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley speaks at the 2012 national Democratic convention in Charlotte (File)

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley speaks at the 2012 national Democratic convention in Charlotte (File)

It’s the last weekend of campaigning before Election Day, meaning that candidates are circulating the state for some last minute politicking.

It also means the candidates for governor are getting some visits from nationally-known politicians on Saturday and Sunday, as those national figures are rumored to be considering runs for president in 2016.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is scheduled to stump for Democratic nominee Vincent Sheheen at a North Charleston “Get Out the Vote” fish fry on Saturday. He also plans to visit a Moncks Corner meet and greet and will stop by at the party’s North Charleston field offices. O’Malley has made several appearances with Sheheen this campaign cycle (and his fourth appearance in South Carolina since January 2013). He is in his eighth year of the Maryland governor’s office, but is currently considered something of an unknown as a potential presidential candidate.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Nikki Haley during an appearance in Charleston last month (File)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Gov. Nikki Haley during an appearance in Charleston last month (File)

The Republicans will have their own big name in the Palmetto State on Sunday, when New Jersey Governor Chris Christie plans to campaign with South Carolina’s Nikki Haley. The pair will attend a service at First Baptist Church in Spartanburg that morning, before heading to a lunch campaign rally at The Beacon restaurant nearby. Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association, turned down a presidential run in 2012 but is rumored to be thinking about 2016.

Fellow GOP governor Bobby Jindal of Louisiana appeared with Haley during a swing through the Grand Strand on Thursday.

SC House campaign finance subcommittee votes to end leadership PACs

SC Statehouse (File)

SC Statehouse (File)

The South Carolina House Campaign Finance Subcommittee is trying for more transparency when it comes to the flow of money to candidates and groups which support them.

The study subcommittee’s chairman Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia, said it’s not what the cause is or where an individual stands, but the public’s right to know where they get their financing. “What’s important is, if people are spending money in an organized fashion to advocate for an individual or an idea, that we have some idea where that money is coming from,” Finlay said at a subcommittee meeting Thursday.

Members of the subcommittee also looked at the issue of what are broadly defined as political action committees, or PACs. However they are viewed, Finlay said court rulings have declared they are protected by the First Amendment and controlling them would be difficult.

However, he said one step that can be taken is the elimination of “leadership PACs,” which are those committees that have ties to members of the House. These PACs cannot donate to their organizer’s campaign, but can make donations to other House or Senate members. For example, now-former House Speaker Bobby Harrell had ties to the Palmetto Leadership Council PAC during his time as Speaker (Harrell consistently maintained it was not technically a “leadership PAC” since it was run by his chief fundraiser).

State Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia (Image: SCETV)

State Rep. Kirkman Finlay, R-Columbia (Image: SCETV)

“We can’t go after anything other than that which we can control in the boundaries of South Carolina.” Finlay said at Thursday’s meeting. The subcommittee voted to recommended a ban on leadership PACs. The recommendation will be taken up at the larger House Rules Committee meeting and must be approved by the House once it new session begins after Election Day.

The state Senate has had its own ban on leadership PACs for three years, but House leaders have been reluctant to give up their own. A handful of other prominent House members used to have their own PACS, but have dropped them since ethics reform began getting more Statehouse attention since 2012. An ethics reform proposal that cleared the House this spring would have eliminated leadership PACs and required independent campaign committees to disclose their organizers (the measure failed in the Senate).

In South Carolina, PACs have little regulation beyond the $3,500 limit they can donate to a particular candidate (the same limit in place for any other individual or business). The organizers of such groups are not required to disclose their donors or their organizers, and have no limits on what they can spend or receive.

A PAC is a type of organization that pools campaign contributions from members and donates those funds to campaign for or against candidates, ballot initiatives, or legislation. PACs can take the form of all most any type of organization at the federal or state level, but cannot technically have organizational ties to the candidates they support.

The legal term PAC has been created in pursuit of campaign finance reform in the United States. This term is quite specific to all activities of campaign finance in the United States. At the federal level, an organization becomes a PAC when it receives or spends more than $2,600 for the purpose of influencing a federal election, according to the Federal Election Campaign Act. At the state level, an organization becomes a PAC according to the state’s election laws.

Matt Long contributed to this report

Election for Harrell’s old House seat delayed, Democratic chair plans appeal

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts last week

Bobby Harrell embraces his wife a few minutes after pleading guilty to six ethics counts last week

South Carolina elections officials have ordered a delay in voting for the state House seat formerly held by Bobby Harrell.

In a controversial decision, the State Election Commission voted unanimously Thursday to give Republicans enough time to pick a replacement candidate. The commission rejected an affidavit filed by Harrell seeking to withdraw from the ballot, saying a guilty plea deal with prosecutors had already disqualified him.

Harrell’s ineligibility had meant the reliably-Republican district in Charleston and Dorchester counties suddenly had only Democratic nominee Mary Tinkler and Green Party candidate Sue Edward on the ballot. While Harrell’s name would appear, votes for him could not be counted.

But the South Carolina Democratic Party and an attorney representing Tinkler at Thursday’s hearing maintained it was “unprecedented” to order a new election after absentee voting had already begun. State party chairman Jaime Harrison said the move by a Republican-appointed board (although one commissioner is required to be Democratic) at the advice of staffers from a Republican state attorney general “reeked of politics.”

“We will be taking this to the highest court here in South Carolina,” he told reporters immediately after the commission’s decision. “Because we need to stand up for the voters in this state and the voters in that district.”

[Read more...]