COLUMBIA, SC — S.C. GOP party leaders said they did not want petition gubernatorial candidate Tom Ervin to speak to a group of Richland and Lexington county Republicans on Tuesday.
State GOP Chairman Matt Moore said his staff called organizers of the First Tuesday Republican Club of Richland and Lexington Counties about their concerns over Ervin. The former state lawmaker and judge from Greenville was a Democrat until 2005 when he ran again for the State House. State Republicans have accused Ervin of being an closet Democrat.
"We were surprised to see Mr. Ervin on the agenda," Moore said. "He is not the Republican Party's nominee for governor. If there's a Chameleon Party, he should attend their lunches - since he continually changes his beliefs and party affiliation based on political circumstances."
Ervin filed for the Republican primary against incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley but pulled out to run a petition candidacy to give his campaign more time to reach voters. The state GOP threatened to sue Ervin for calling himself an "independent Republican" in a television ad.
Ervin's voice shook in anger when he mentioned the state party's call during his speech in West Columbia on Tuesday, saying the GOP was trying to infringe on his First Amendment rights.
State Republicans said they do not want voters confused about who has the party's backing. Moore said he reminded First Tuesday club officials that state party rules "explicitly require supporting Republican nominees."
"It's their business to run their own meetings," Moore said. "However, my job is to protect our nominees and party -- I'm sorry if Tom Ervin's feelings are hurt. Hopefully the people in attendance asked him why he dropped out of the Republican primary and continues to mislead voters."
No one asked Ervin a question after his speech, but Lexington County GOP corresponding secretary Mickey Lindler said, "If you're not a Republican, I don't know who is."
The club is not official monthly meeting of the county parties, Moore said.
Ervin is critical of Haley's administration especially its handling of the deaths of children involved with the S.C. Department of Social Services.