Drake quits race for governor

Democrat says lack of money forced him out; decision could help Sheheen

gnsmith@thestate.comMarch 5, 2010 

Short on cash, Dwight Drake, a Columbia attorney and former lobbyist, said he is ending his bid to be the state's next governor.

"The problem is money, money and money or the lack of money, the lack of money and the lack of money," the 64-year-old Democrat said Friday. "I just was not able to raise enough money to be competitive. I reached the conclusion pretty painfully ... over the past 48 hours."

Drake said he figured he needed about $1.2 million to win the June Democratic primary. The $500,000 that he has raised thus far and the $250,000 that he anticipated raising during 2010's first quarter convinced him he couldn't hit that money mark in time.

Drake did not endorse any of the three remaining Democratic candidates for governor.For now, Drake said he will continue working as an attorney, as he has done for nearly 40 years. As for a return to lobbying, a career that Drake quit so he could run for governor, he is not sure what's next.

"I don't have any clients right now," Drake laughed. "We'll see how that develops."

Drake's exit creates a three-way race among Democrats to replace term-limited Republican Gov. Mark Sanford. The remaining Democrats are state Sen. Robert Ford of Charleston, state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Kershaw County.

Sheheen is leading in the money race and, this week, picked up the endorsements of a majority of Democratic lawmakers in the S.C. House and Senate. Charleston attorney Mullins McLeod, a Democrat who dropped out of the governor's race last month, also has endorsed Sheheen.

Meanwhile, Rex has won endorsements from more than half of the state's school district superintendents.

But both Rex and Ford are low on cash, an Achilles' heel as the June primary nears and hoarded cash typically is spent on expensive TV ads.

Friday, the state GOP bashed Drake and McLeod for leaving the race along with Democrat Chad McGowan of Rock Hill, who recently dropped his run against U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-Greenville.

"Democrats are dropping out of statewide races almost as fast as the Obama administration is racking up debt, and that's no easy feat to accomplish," said Joel Sawyer, GOP executive director. "At the rate the Democrats are dropping, a Republican primary might be all we have to look forward to."

Drake fired back that Republicans are a chief reason that candidates are struggling as they attempt to raise money.

"The Republican leadership has destroyed the economy to such an extent that it's tough for candidates to raise money," he said.

Four Republicans remain in the gubernatorial race - U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett of Westminster, Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, state Rep. Nikki Haley of Lexington and state Attorney General Henry McMaster. State Sen. Larry Grooms, R-Berkeley, dropped out of the GOP race in January.

Democratic consultant Tyler Jones, who isn't working for any of the gubernatorial candidates, predicted the primary beneficiary will be Sheheen.

"When you look at Dwight's support, it's a lot of traditional Democrats. It's a lot of Dick Harpootlian's crowd," he said, referring to the former state Democratic Party chairman. "It's (former Gov.) Jim Hodges' crowd.

"Now, they're free to back Vince."

-- From staff reports

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