Former Obama aide sets sights on Scott’s US Senate seat

ashain@thestate.comDecember 13, 2013 

Rick Wade

  • Rick Wade

    Age: 51

    Hometown: Lancaster

    Family: Single

    Occupations: Owns the Wade Group business consulting firm, and senior vice president and head of China operations for GreenTech Automotive

    Former positions: Adviser, U.S. Department of Commerce; analyst, S.C. House Ways and Means Committee; chief of staff, Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore; director, S.C. Department of Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Services under Gov. Jim Hodges; and executive at Hoffmann-La Roche, Fowler Communications, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of S.C. subsidiary Palmetto GBA

    Politics: Democratic nominee for S.C. secretary of state in 2002; adviser to both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns; former Democratic National Committee member

    Education: Bachelor’s degree in biology, University of South Carolina; master’s degree in public administration, Harvard University

— 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 party’s nomination to unseat Scott, South Carolina’s 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.

“He’s a mature individual,” said Harpootlian, who agreed to back Wade’s bid. “He’s not going to play Tea Party games.”

Wade has been building his run for the Senate for months. Hodges, South Carolina’s 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 Obama’s 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 Obama’s 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 won’t 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 Rick’s 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.

“That’s 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 DeMint’s 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 DeMint’s 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 June’s GOP primary.

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