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November 1, 2012

Ethics charges fly in SC House race

S.C. House 78 candidate Beth Bernstein has focused as much of her campaign against Gov. Nikki Haley as she has against incumbent state Rep. Joan Brady.

S.C. House 78 candidate Beth Bernstein has focused as much of her campaign against Gov. Nikki Haley as she has against incumbent state Rep. Joan Brady.

The Democratic nominee for the Northeast Richland seat has appeared in television ads saying Haley, a first-term Republican governor whose ethics have been challenged, has “embarrassed us” while asking voters to end “Nikki Haley’s assault on public education.”

Thursday, state Sen. Vincent Sheheen — Haley’s 2010 Democratic opponent in the governor’s race and her potential adversary in 2014 — jumped into what has become one of the most competitive House races in the state, appearing with Bernstein outside of her Assembly Street law office.

While Haley has campaigned for and spent money on several Republican candidates, Bernstein is the first candidate Sheheen has endorsed.

“I am very careful about going out and speaking for other people ... and I do that really on a very selective basis,” said Sheheen, who carried District 78 in the 2010 governor’s race. “But I have so much confidence in Beth that I wanted to come over and speak for her.”

Sheheen and Bernstein both said the State House needs “better ethics.” Meanwhile, Bernstein’s opponent — four-term Republican Brady — accused Bernstein of unethical campaigning.

In a direct-mail advertisement, Bernstein’s campaign criticized Brady for the ethics complaint, citing a story in the Free Times that said an unidentified person had filed an ethics complaint against Brady, a member of the House Ethics Committee. The Ethics Committee later dismissed the complaint, which was not confirmed until this week when Brady waived her right to confidentiality.

Brady said the complaint originally was hand-delivered to the Ethics Committee by Tyler Jones, an employee of the House Democratic Caucus who has worked on several campaigns, including Bernstein’s. Ethics Committee staffers confirmed Tuesday that Jones brought the complaint to the committee.

“My opponent (has) the irony of suggesting an ethics agenda while in some way her campaign has been complicit in filing a frivolous complaint against me, only for the purpose of utilizing it against me in her campaign,” Brady said.

Jones said he did not file the complaint, but was one of several political operatives to receive a copy of the complaint in an email addressed to Ethics Committee chairman Roland Smith, R-Aiken. Jones said he then turned over the complaint to the committee.

Bernstein said it was “absurd” to suggest her campaign had anything to do with filing the complaint. “It’s just a last-minute Hail Mary from a desperate campaign.”

The election is Tuesday.

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