SC native leads effort to win 7 states

gnsmith@thestate.comAugust 31, 2012 

— Four years ago, Trey Walker of Ballentine ran U.S. Sen. John McCain’s successful S.C. Republican primary campaign and then joined the senior campaign staff for the GOP presidential nominee, managing McCain’s efforts in Southern states.

And GOP political consultant Tucker Eskew, a Greenville native, was communication and policy aide to Republican vice presidential pick Sarah Palin.

This time around, a handful of South Carolinians once again are working behind the scenes to secure a GOP victory, this time for Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

David Raad, a Powdersville native and Clemson graduate, is heading up the Republican National Committee’s efforts to get Romney elected in South Carolina and six other Southern states.

An Operations Desert Storm veteran and former State Department diplomat in Sudan, Raad has experience advocating for Romney in the Palmetto State. He was Romney’s S.C. director leading up to January’s primary.

While South Carolina chose Newt Gingrich over Romney in January, Raad is convinced Palmetto State Republicans will not sit out the November election.

“In the (Republican) party, there is common sense of purpose, that we need someone who is a sound and a strong leader who can deal with the many problems we’re facing,” said Raad, whose first political job was interning for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca. “And that person is Mitt Romney.”

While Raad considers himself a tumbleweed, blowing around the Southern states, he lives in Powdersville, where he also is working to find a distributor for the aged whiskey that his new distillery, Six and Twenty Distillery, is producing.

Raad has some S.C. company in this year’s election.

• Luke Byars and Warren Tompkins, partners in Columbia-based First Tuesday Strategy, are doing mail services for the Republican National Committee. The two, who joined Team Romney as unpaid advisers in the last days before the S.C. primary, are producing and blasting out mail pieces to voters in swing states.

“We’re honored, happy to being doing it,” said Byars, a Spartanburg native. “We believe in the cause. We look forward to a Republican victory in November.”

Byars’ wife, Drea Byars, carries the distinction of being the only paid Romney staffer in South Carolina. She is the campaign’s S.C. finance director, raising money around the state – a task she also performed for Romney’s 2008 campaign.

• State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, Romney’s S.C. campaign chairman leading up to the January primary, also still is involved in the campaign.

“At this point, it’s mainly being available and do anything they ask,” said Loftis, who was chairman of the S.C. delegation in Tampa.

“Romney is not the greatest politician who’s ever been,” Loftis said. “But we’re looking for competency now.”

• Gov. Nikki Haley also will continue to play a prominent role as a surrogate for Romney, who she endorsed in 2008 and this year. The Lexington Republican spoke on his behalf Tuesday during the convention and appeared on both CNN and Fox News Thursday, advocating for him.

She also will continue to travel the country for Romney, fundraising for his campaign, according to the GOP nominee office.

Others say they stand ready to help as well.

Last November, for instance, state Rep. Phyllis Henderson, R-Greenville, endorsed the former Massachusetts governor.

“All of the candidates were conservative, but I wanted to the pick the best conservative who could actually win in November,” said Henderson, adding she may organize a group to travel to North Carolina, a swing state that Democratic President Barack Obama won in 2008.

“North Carolina really needs our help,” she said.

Reach Smith at (803) 414-1340.

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