COLUMBIA, SC — Rick Wade, a former U.S. Commerce Department adviser and Cabinet officer under then-Gov. Jim Hodges, will seek the Democratic nomination next year for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Tim Scott.
The people of South Carolina understand that Washington is broken, the Democratic Lancaster native said in a statement released Friday night. If we are going to solve the big problems we face and get things done, our representatives must be accountable to their constituents.
The Senate race stands to make history in South Carolina, where an African-American has not won statewide office since Reconstruction.
Wade and Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, an African-American Democrat, are seeking their partys nomination to unseat Scott, South Carolinas first black U.S. senator.
Scott, a former 1st District congressman from North Charleston, was appointed to the Senate by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in January after Republican Jim DeMint resigned.
Former S.C. Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian said Friday that Wade called him last week, seeking support for a run against Scott.
Hes a mature individual, said Harpootlian, who agreed to back Wades bid. Hes not going to play Tea Party games.
Wade has been building his run for the Senate for months. Hodges, South Carolinas last Democratic governor, and former State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum, who unsuccessfully opposed DeMint for the Senate, said Friday that Wade had reached out to them for advice on managing a statewide campaign.
Wade, 51, is an attractive candidate because of his state and federal government experience, Democratic Party officials said.
Wade was an adviser to Barack Obamas 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns. He also has run for statewide office before, losing the 2002 race for S.C. secretary of state to Republican Mark Hammond.
S.C. Republican party leaders called Wade a political insider.
He spent the last five years in Washington authoring President Obamas failed $787 billion stimulus bill and sending taxpayer dollars to his political cronies, S.C. GOP chairman Matt Moore said. We look forward to Rick Wade explaining that record to regular South Carolinians. They wont be too impressed.
Moore also questioned if Wade is a South Carolina resident.
Wade was not available for interviews Friday.
However, a spokeswoman said Wade commutes from South Carolina to Washington, D.C., and Beijing for his work with the Wade Group business consulting firm and GreenTech Automotive, where he heads operations in China.
Columbia has always been and remains Ricks main residence, spokeswoman Candace Sandy said.
Any Democrat who hopes to oust Scott will have to raise cash quickly. The Republican had $2.8 million in his campaign account earlier this fall.
Thats a formidable amount to go up against, S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said.
Scott, who speaks often of his rise from poverty and faith, also is a favorite with the Tea Party-libertarian wing of the GOP. Scott was elected first to the U.S. House in the 2010 Tea Party wave that also launched three other new S.C. congressmen into the Capitol.
But Harrison thinks the Democrats have a chance against Scott, whom he called the senator of the Heritage Foundation, which Tea Party favorite DeMint now runs.
In his statement, Wade said he has started traveling across the state, listening to South Carolinians about the challenges they face and the hopes they have to build a better future for themselves and their families.
Because of DeMints resignation, S.C. voters will have a rare chance to vote for both U.S. senators who represent the Palmetto State in 2014.
Scott and the Democratic nominee either Wade or Dickerson are running to fill the last two years of DeMints term, which ends in 2016.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca, is seeking a third term. But Graham will have to beat at least four challengers in Junes GOP primary.