Haley rebuffs Dem demands that she dismiss controversial advisor

jself@thestate.comMay 24, 2013 

Gov. Nikki Haley

GERRY MELENDEZ — gmelendez@thestate.com Buy Photo

— Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election campaign has no plans to remove a controversial volunteer who S.C. Democrats and others say has ties to white supremacist groups.

Democrats called on Haley to dismiss Roan Garcia-Quintana of Mauldin from the Republican’s grass-roots re-election committee, citing his ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens. Civil rights groups, including the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League, have labeled that council a hate group.

In an interview with The State Friday, Garcia-Quintana dismissed accusations of racism, saying the council “supports Caucasian heritage.”

“Is it racist to be proud of your own heritage? Is it racist to want to keep your own heritage pure?” Garcia-Quintana said. “Racist is when you hate somebody so much that you want to destroy them.”

Garcia-Quintana, a Cuban-American best known in South Carolina for his opposition to immigration reform, is one of 170 co-chairs of Haley’s grass-roots re-election committee.

He also is on the board of directors of the Council of Conservative Citizens – a group that opposes “all efforts to mix the races of mankind” and thinks “the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character,” according to its website.

S.C. House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford and state Sen. Joel Lourie, both Richland Democrats, wrote Haley a letter Friday calling Garcia-Quintana a “white supremacist” and asking her to remove him from her steering committee, which includes Republican political activists from around the state.

Haley, of Lexington, has not officially announced her re-election campaign but is expected to run against Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Kershaw County.

Haley’s political adviser said Friday that her campaign will not drop Garcia-Quintana.

“The IRS thinks conservatives should be targeted for abuse, but Gov. Haley does not,” Tim Pearson, a former chief of staff in the Governor’s Office to Haley, said in an email.

“There is nothing racial about this Cuban-American’s participation in the political process, nor his support for the first Indian-American governor and the first African-American U.S. senator in South Carolina history,” Pearson said. “And, frankly, as long as Vince Sheheen continues to employ as one of his top political advisers Phil Bailey, a man who racially slurred Gov. Haley, Vince and his allies have nothing to complain about.”

Pearson was referring to a tweet last year by Bailey, political director for the state Senate’s Democratic Caucus, in which he called Haley a “Sikh Jesus.”

S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said Bailey apologized for a joke made “in poor taste.” But, Harrison added, Garcia-Quintana has been “unapologetic about his opposition to ‘mixing races’ and has spent his career leading organizations that defended Jim Crow laws.”

Democrats recently fielded another accusation of racism against Haley when outgoing S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian said at a political event that he hoped voters would send “Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from.”

Republicans immediately labeled Harpootlian’s remark racist, saying he was referring to Haley’s Indian-American heritage.

Harpootlian later told The State and other media that he meant Haley should go back to “Lexington County” and “being an accountant in a dress store,” once owned by her parents.

Lourie and Rutherford also called on Haley to “renounce and condemn (Garcia-Quintana’s) views and the views of the organizations he associates with, and apologize for elevating him to a position of note within your re-election campaign.”

Talk of Garcia-Quintana’s ties to the Council of Conservative Citizens started circulating at the State House on Tuesday, when Garcia-Quintana, director of the anti-immigration Americans Have Had Enough Coalition, appeared to speak against a federal immigration proposal that would give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.

Garcia-Quintana, who came to the United States as a political refugee, says he opposes immigration reform because current immigration laws are not being enforced. The immigration reform proposal now before the U.S. Senate – supported by many Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina – would give “amnesty” to the “lowest of the low” who enter the country illegally, Garcia-Quintana says.

On MSNBC on Thursday, TV personality Al Sharpton sited Garcia-Quintana’s connections to Haley and the Council of Conservative Citizens as an example of the Republican Party’s failure to reach out to minorities.

“How’s that for rebranding?” Sharpton said.

Reach Self at (803)771-8658

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