S.C. GOP party leaders said they did not want Tom Ervin, who is running for governor as a petition candidate, to speak Tuesday to a group of Richland and Lexington counties Republicans.
State GOP chairman Matt Moore said his staff called organizers of the First Tuesday Republican Club of Richland and Lexington Counties about his concerns over Ervin. The former state lawmaker and judge from Greenville was a Democrat until 2005, when he ran again for the State House as a Republican. Party officials have accused Ervin, who originally filed to run in June’s GOP primary, of being a 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 to run in the GOP primary against incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley but pulled out to run as a petition candidate, saying that would give his campaign more time to reach voters. Subsequently, the state GOP threatened to sue Ervin for calling himself an “independent Republican” in a television ad.
“If you’re not a Republican, I don’t know who is,” Lexington County GOP corresponding secretary Mickey Lindler, who organizes the First Tuesday meetings, told Ervin Tuesday.
Ervin’s voice shook in anger when he mentioned the state party’s call during his speech in West Columbia, saying the GOP was trying to infringe on his First Amendment rights. He is critical of the Haley administration, especially its handling of the deaths of children involved with the S.C. Department of Social Services.
“The status quo, career politicians are concerned about Tom Ervin,” Ervin said. “They’re concerned that I’m going to go all over South Carolina with a message of reform and hope and opportunity.”
After the speech, Ervin said he has invitations to speak to other Republican groups, including on Friday to a Hilton Head Island group.
“It has energized me to work that much harder,” Ervin said of the state GOP’s efforts to stifle his speech.
State Republicans said they do not want voters confused about who has the GOP’s backing. State chairman Moore said he reminded First Tuesday officials that state party rules “explicitly require supporting Republican nominees.”
But the state GOP backed petition candidate Katrina Shealy in her successful 2012 run against state Sen. Jake Knotts, R-Lexington, Lindler noted.
The party backed Shealy after Knotts was blamed for political moves that blocked more than 200 candidates from the ballot.