SC governor to campaign in Sumter state Senate race

abeam@thestate.comOctober 10, 2012 

Gov. Nikki Haley is dipping her toe into the November general elections, venturing into one of the most competitive races in the state.

Haley will campaign today for Republican state Senate candidate Tony Barwick in Sumter. It is Haley’s first endorsement in a local race on the November ballot.

Barwick, owner of Palmetto Pigeon Plant, is running against Democrat Thomas McElveen, a Sumter attorney and son of Sumter Mayor Joseph McElveen. The two are hoping to succeed District 35 state Sen. Phil Leventis, a Democratic Senate stalwart who is retiring after 31 years.

While District 35 has been Democratic for decades, its boundaries were redrawn last year by the Republican-controlled Legislature, and the GOP is hopeful of winning the seat.

“The governor, in Sumter, has got a tremendous following. She was so instrumental in bringing Continental Tire, bringing another Caterpillar plant and bringing Au’some Candy,” Barwick said, referring to three employers who recently announced they would locate in the county. “Certainly, she will help me. I want anybody I can get to come out and support me.”

Two years ago, Haley lost the newly redrawn District 35 by five percentage points to the Democratic candidate for governor, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Kershaw County. (The new district includes portions of Kershaw County, where Sheheen lives.)

McElveen said Wednesday that Haley was “the No. 1 example of what is wrong in Columbia.”

“From cronyism to (alleged) ethics violations to a complete lack of transparency, I am not at all surprised that she would come to Sumter to endorse one of her cronies,” he said. “I’m ready to shake things up in Columbia with new fresh and independent leadership. I can guarantee you I am not the status-quo candidate in this race.”

Last week, Haley vowed to go after lawmakers who have thwarted her legislative agenda.

That has happened primarily in the Senate, where lawmakers this year killed a bill that would have created a new state Department of Administration, Haley’s signature issue. While Republicans have a majority in the Senate, Democrats have enough seats in that body to block bills or influence legislation.

In the June primaries, Haley campaigned for state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, and 7th District congressional candidate Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach. Both won.

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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