SC governor to announce re-election bid

abeam@thestate.comAugust 12, 2013 

Gov. Nikki Haley will announce her candidacy for re-election in Republican-rich Greenville County later this month, flanked by the man she appointed to the U.S. Senate and three Republican governors with presidential hopes.

Haley will make her long-expected announcement during a 4 p.m. rally at the Bi-Lo Center in downtown Greenville Aug. 26, according to a campaign spokesman.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott will be the emcee. Haley appointed Scott, a former congressman from North Charleston, to the U.S. Senate in December to succeed Jim DeMint, who resigned to lead the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington-based think tank.

Also scheduled to appear at the rally are a trio of Republican governors who will be in town for a $1,000-a-couple fundraiser for Haley at the home of Greenville developer Bob Hughes. The governors — Rick Perry of Texas, Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana — all have been mentioned as possible GOP presidential candidates in 2016.

“We got such a huge response to the news that America’s leading governors, Walker, Jindal and Perry, are coming to Greenville, that we decided to expand our events to include a grassroots rally. And once we did that, Governor Haley decided that we might as well make it official – she’s running for re-election,” Haley’s campaign spokesman, Rob Godfrey, said in an email.

Next year, Haley is expected to face Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden in a rematch of their 2010 race. Haley defeated Sheheen by nearly 60,000 votes in that campaign after capturing the Republican nomination in a crowded GOP field that included then-U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett and then-state Attorney General Henry McMaster. However, Haley’s margin of victory — 4.5 percentage points — was one of the narrowest in the country in a year that saw Republicans do particularly well nationwide, Democrats note.

At her announcement, Haley is expected to tout her record as a job creator, including companies announcing more than $9 billion of capital investment and 36,000 jobs during her term as governor, according to the S.C. Department of Commerce. In April, the state’s jobless rate dropped to 8 percent, a five-year low. (Subsequently, employment climbed slightly to 8.1 percent in June.)

Sheheen’s campaign pushed back Monday against those job-creation claims, saying South Carolina’s jobless rate is “one of the highest in the nation.” South Carolina’s jobless rate ranks 37th – tied with Connecticut – of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, according to the federal Bureau of Labor statistics. The lowest jobless rate is in North Dakota — at 3.1 percent.

“Nikki Haley has been an utter failure for South Carolina, its people and its businesses,” Andrew Whalen, Sheheen’s campaign manager, said in a news release. “Our residents and businesses fight to thrive because of crumbling roads and challenged schools. She certainly has not earned another term.”

Roads and education are likely to be two big issues in the campaign.

In June, Haley signed into law a bill that would spend up to $1 billion improving South Carolina’s roads over the next 10 years. Most of that money will come from bonds the state plans to sell, a provision that was pushed by the Senate Democratic Caucus, of which Sheheen is a member.

Haley also is working on a K-12 education reform proposal that she plans to have introduced in the Legislature next year. Sheheen, meanwhile, this year pushed through a $26 million expansion of the state’s 4-year-old kindergarten program into 17 of the state’s poorest school districts.

“With the fastest-growing economy on the East Coast, and the unemployment rate hitting a five-year low, South Carolina is moving fast in the right direction. But it’s never fast enough for Nikki,” Godfrey said in an email. “She wants to make sure our state continues on the right path and doesn’t take a turn toward bigger government, higher taxes and Obamacare.”

Reach Beam at (803) 386-7038.

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