COLUMBIA, SC — State Sen. Vincent Sheheen has not announced he is running for governor, but he certainly is acting like he wants a rematch with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014.
The Camden Democrat sent out a fundraising email Thursday – two days after a poll said he had a slim lead over Haley in a hypothetical race. Sheheen lost to Haley, 51 percent to 47 percent, in 2010.
The governor also has received a pair of sub-50 percent job-approval ratings in the last week, emboldening Democrats about their chances of reclaiming the Governor’s Mansion for the first time since 1998.
“The newest polls (show) how ready South Carolina is for a new direction,” Sheheen said in his fundraising email. “Those of us in South Carolina know we deserve better than what we have gotten from our government officials.”
Sheheen has been making the rounds. He attended the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in September and a recent Democratic Governors Association meeting in Los Angeles.
Like Haley, Sheheen has not committed to run in 2014.
Instead, he wrote in the email, “I am still unsure what the future holds for (wife) Amy and me, but I do know that the future is bright for our state.”
State Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, warned Thursday that Democrats should not get ahead of themselves, getting excited about poll results two years before election day. Sellers noted former Gov. Mark Sanford’s numbers flagged before he won a second term in 2006.
Sellers said Sheheen would make a good governor, but he expects the senator to face a primary challenge. “We’re not anointing him the crown of Democratic gubernatorial politics.”
The 2014 governor’s race will cost the winner somewhere in the area of $8 million based on recent S.C. races.
Sheheen has about $100,000 on hand, according to S.C. Ethics Commission reports.
The governor has more than $1 million for the 2014 campaign, and a pro-Haley political organization has raised more than $700,000, though it only has about $200,000 on hand after its advertising spending in several state Senate campaigns in November.
Haley’s political consultant expects Sheheen to run again in 2014.
“This is no surprise. Vince Sheheen has never stopped running for governor,” consultant Tim Pearson said Thursday. “The difference is that while Sheheen has been focused on getting political revenge for his previous loss, Nikki Haley has been focused on jobs in South Carolina.”
After a poll Tuesday showed Sheheen narrowly ahead of Haley, Pearson responded: “When it comes time for us to re-enter the political ring with him, the results will be just as bad for Vince as they were last time.”