The Buzz: Waiting for Chris Christie in SC and other notes from the U.S. Senate race

jself@ thestate.comNovember 9, 2013 

New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie joins a list of possible 2016 White House contenders making overtures to South Carolina, the first-in-the-South primary state that has a nearly perfect record of picking Republican presidential nominees.

After Christie won his second term as governor Tuesday, The New York Times reported Christie – who did not run for his party’s White House nomination in 2012 despite encouragement – “told South Carolina Republicans that he wants to help Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is facing a conservative primary challenge next year.”

S.C. GOP Chairman Matt Moore said he invited Christie to visit South Carolina when the two spoke at the August Republican National Committee meeting in Boston.

Christie’s response?

“He said he was looking forward to coming down some time after his re-election,” Moore said.

Other Republicans considered possible contenders for the GOP presidential nomination are making their way to the Palmetto State.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has been to the state twice this year, and U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky will make his third visit to the state Monday for a Charleston event.

Also, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is headlining a banquet in December for the Spartanburg County and S.C. Republicans parties.

Alvin Greene II? Stamper slim on S.C. cash

U.S. Senate candidate Jay Stamper raised $15,128 from July to September, and his only S.C. contributions came from his wife, according to his most recent federal campaign filing. The rest came from contributors in California, Nevada, Massachusetts and Washington.

Stamper, a Democrat, moved from Seattle to South Carolina to run for U.S. Senate against Republican Lindsey Graham, he said. He had $6,579 to spend as of the end of the quarter.

Stamper’s pre-South Carolina self also pleaded guilty to three felonies in Nevada and agreed to return $5 million to about 200 investors in 37 states after Washington state regulators ordered him to shut down his internet investment company.

But only a Democratic opponent – not a short stack of campaign cash gathered from beyond South Carolina’s borders, a criminal history or a lack of support from party leadership – will prevent Stamper from cruising to the S.C. Democratic Party’s nomination.

Lee Bright’s light will shine ... in December

On the GOP side of the race to replace Graham, state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, has been sending out news blasts whenever a state legislator or county GOP or Tea Party group endorses him. He also is singling himself out in another way – as the only candidate who has sought extensions on filing a personal finance report with the U.S. Senate.

According to a recent letter from the U.S. Senate Select Committee of Ethics, Bright – whose trucking company recently failed – requested his second deadline extension for filing the report, which would reveal to the public details about his bank accounts and assets.

Now, the report is due in December and no more extensions are possible.

Asked why the delay, Bright’s campaign spokesman said in October that the campaign wanted time to ensure the report was filed accurately.

Haley mum on Obamacare nullification bill

More than 100 people spoke at public hearings across the state last week about H.3101 – the controversial bill, which will be before the state Senate in January, that seeks to nullify the Affordable Care Act in South Carolina.

Asked about it, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley demurred, saying: “We try and wait until later ... to make sure that we have all the amendments before we look at something.”

But Haley’s policy of withholding judgment does not apply to every bill. That same day, Haley had strong words for another bill on special order in the state Senate – H.3945, which would strengthen the state’s ethics laws.

“They should not pause. They should not punt. They should not question that ethics report,” Haley said. “If they do, we want everyone in South Carolina to know who it is.”

Haley supporters would argue that’s not a fair comparison because the governor has been talking about ethics reform for more than a year, touring the state and appointing an S.C. Commission on Ethics Reform whose recommendations were the basis for the ethics bill.

But The Buzz would argue Haley has made her feelings about the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare – equally clear, saying, for example, “There is no governor that has fought Obamacare more than we have in South Carolina.”

Given that, why not take a position on the nullification bill?

Is the Democratic Governors Association dumping Sheheen?

When Gov. Peter Shumlin, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, listed the top six Republican governors his group planned to target in 2014, one name did not make the list – S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley.

That got Republican Haley’s re-election campaign all excited Friday.

“We appreciate Governor Shumlin’s honesty in pointing out that Nikki Haley is not a top target of the DGA,” Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said. “He must see what everyone else sees: Governor Haley’s record of results and Vince Sheheen’s embrace of policies so out of touch with South Carolina – specifically his full-throated effort to accept ObamaCare – mean their money is far, far better spent elsewhere.”

Not so, Democratic Governors Association spokesman Danny Kanner told The Buzz.

Beating Haley is “a top priority” for the Democratic group in 2014, Kanner said. He said the context for Shumlin’s comments was targeting states with Republican governors that Democratic President Barack Obama won in the 2012 election.

“Nikki Haley is so vulnerable, and we have a great candidate,” Kanner said. “We’re already involved, already working with the campaign.”

The Democratic Governors already has put out a poll in the South Carolina governor’s race, showing Sheheen trailing Haley by 4 percentage points, which is within the poll’s margin of error. That led the Sheheen campaign to call the race “a dead heat.” A poll from a Republican pollster released about the same time showed Haley leading Sheheen by 9 percentage points.

Last month, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, told a gathering of Orangeburg County Democrats that the poll means the Democratic Governors will be heavily involved in the S.C. governor’s race.

Staff writer Adam Beam contributed.

Reach Self at (803)771-8658.

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