Independent U.S. Senate candidate Thomas Ravenel touted his unconventional candidacy as he vied for support from Beaufort Tea Party members Monday.
“My point is that before I got into this race, you had a false choice — a choice between two indistinguishable party authorities trying to run this country into a ditch,” Ravenel told about 25 club members at Fuji Restaurant on Lady’s Island. “I’ve been intellectually freed from party politics.”
The former state treasurer and newly minted star on the reality TV show “Southern Charm” joined the race last month as a petition candidate to challenge incumbent Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Ravenel and Graham, the Republican nominee, will face Libertarian Victor Kocher and state Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, in the Nov. 4 general election. Kocher was unable to attend Monday’s meeting, and Graham has not responded to invitations to speak for several years, group leader Ann Ubelis said.
Monday night’s meeting was Ravenel’s second visit to the Beaufort Tea Party in as many months. As he did at the previous meeting, he advocated putting states in charge of government programs.
He also addressed several issues, including: Immigration: Ravenel is against amnesty for illegal immigrants but wants immigration reform that will open the work visa process to both low- and highly skilled workers.
States’ rights: Ravenel wants to decentralize major aid programs and redistribute them for state governments to manage. “I’m not saying get rid of all the stuff, just let the states handle it,” he said. “A lot of states will get it wrong, but a lot of states will get it right. And the rest of the states can work off that.”
Status quo: Ravenel contends his independence is his strongest asset. A few days ago, he added former reporter and documentary producer Scott Wheeler as a campaign manager to push that independence.
“This election can be won by an independent candidate because people are tired of Democrats and Republicans ganging up on us,” Wheeler said Monday. “Lindsey has done enough damage that people are saying, ‘What’s the difference?’”
Ravenel also is still working on the second season of “Southern Charm,” which was renewed by Bravo TV last month, he said. The show hasn’t wrapped up filming yet and likely will air next February, he said.
Although no TV crews came with Ravenel on Monday, the show has taped much of the campaign, Wheeler said.
Beaufort County Councilman Rick Caporale also spoke to the Beaufort Tea Party on Monday.
He was to defend his seat representing part of Hilton Head Island and greater Bluffton against Colleton River Plantation resident Lynn King. However, King failed to collect enough signatures to qualify as a petition candidate, falling 18 signatures short of the required 629, the county indicated Friday.
Caporale, who has served on the council since 2007, will run unopposed in November. He has already received some checks for campaign contributions, which he will return, he said Monday.