U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham holds a commanding lead in the GOP primary to keep his seat in June, though he fell short of capturing 50 percent support to avoid a runoff, a poll released Wednesday found.
Meanwhile, Gov. Nikki Haley's approval rating among likely Republican voters is rising as she approaches a re-election bid in November, the Winthrop University poll found. And U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, who also has a fall election, enjoys the backing of nearly three out of four GOP supporters.
In his race, Graham received 45 percent of backing from 901 likely S.C. Republican primary voters polled this month by Winthrop.
State Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg was second in the field with 8.5 percent.
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The three other challengers who have filed fundraising reports -- Easley businessman Richard Cash, Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor and Charleston PR executive Nancy Mace -- all failed to register at least 4 percent.
More than one out of three likely primary voters, 35 percent, said they were undecided.
"Lindsey Graham is not 'in real trouble' simply because his share is below the 50 percent runoff threshold," Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffmon wrote. "The vast majority of undecided could be distributed to the other candidates and, assuming Graham gets some share, it could easily be enough to put him over 50 percent."
But the Seneca Republican is not "completely safe" either.
Throwing around snow days
The Senate is expected to pass a bill Wednesday to allow school districts to forgive up to five school days canceled by a pair of winter storms. The current Senate version allows districts to forgive any days after the first three makeup days that they must schedule each year. But Senate President Pro Tempore John Courson, R-Richland, said an amendment will be introduced to match the House version that allows up to five days of forgiveness. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, said if the Senate approves a snow-days plan that would trump a bunch of bills introduced on behalf individual districts in case a statewide effort melted in the chambers.
Abortion fight returns to SC: A bill that would ban abortions at 20 weeks of pregnancy or later is heading to the state House floor for debate. The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Wendy Nanney, R-Greenville, says the abortion restriction is necessary because science shows fetuses can feel pain at 20 weeks. But opponents say science does not support that claim. The bill also would require physicians to determine the age of the fetus before performing an abortion; report the pregnant woman’s age, race, and the method of abortion; and establish criminal penalties for doctors, making it a felony to break the law. Agenda
Lawmaker says voiding existing regulations wasn't intent: State Rep. Todd Atwater, R-Lexington, said he did not mean for the House to pass a bill that, if it became law, immediately would eliminate several regulations that protect public safety, health and the environment. Atwater said Tuesday that he wanted the amendment, added to a judicial ethics bill last week, to require that any newly created regulations sunset after five years, requiring their re-evaluation and re-adoption if merited. Full story
Statewide texting ban drives forward: South Carolina would become the last state in the South to approve a ban on texting while driving if a bill heading to the Senate floor becomes law. Full story
S.C. State running out of cash: S.C. State University will run out of money to pay its bills early next month, college president Thomas Elzey said Tuesday. The 3,400-student Orangeburg school is working with vendors to buy extra time while it tries to work through a $13 million cash shortfall. The school could get some money from summer school tuition payments before July. Elzey said he does not expect any interruption of campus services, including food, maintenance and cleaning. Full story
Democrat hoping to unseat Joe Wilson in November: Democrat Ed Greenleaf kicked off his bid Tuesday to unseat U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., in November’s general election. The 51-year-old Columbia resident retired last week after 27 years with BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina, where he said he managed outreach and education communications for the company’s Palmetto GBA subsidiary. Greenleaf said divisive politics in Washington and the October government shutdown made him consider running. Full story
Ex-elections chief strikes back: The just-fired director of Richland County elections said the board that oversees the office was unwilling to make staff changes and was far more concerned about making local legislators happy than being accountable to Richland County voters. Howard Jackson came to a news conference without a script Tuesday, the day after he was dismissed on a 4-1 vote of his board. Full story
Tim Scott, Cory Booker mull historic journey: U.S. Sen. Tim Scott organized and participated in a Black History Month forum at the Library of Congress Tuesday. Five black U.S. senators, including Democrat Cory Booker of New Jersey, participated. Scott, who was appointed to the Senate by Gov. Nikki Haley to fill the vacancy left when Jim DeMint resigned, is currently the only African-American Republican in Congress.
“As a member of the United States Senate now, I see it as a blessing from the Lord,” Scott told a predominantly black audience of 500 people. “All things are absolutely, unequivocally possible in the United States of America in a way that they are not possible anywhere else in the world.”Full story
State House Clicks
Haley blasts Upstate senators for opposing ethics bill: Gov. Nikki Haley criticized three Upstate senators Tuesday for voting against an ethics bill that the Senate could take a final vote on this week. Full story
Sex-education reform bill : A bill that would require sex ed teachers to teach "medically accurate" information to students and be certified to teach health education has stalled in a House subcommittee, the Post and Courier reported. State Rep. Joshua Putnam, R-Anderson, said the bill would encourage teenagers, who already feel "invicible," to risk having sex without a condom. "You can get pregnant by having sex...But if you use condoms and stuff like that, you're going to be OK. What happens when they don't do that, when they get a little gutsy?" Putnam said at the meeting. Putnam also argued the state should not dictate what schools teach at a local level. The state's comprehensive health education act, which outlines what students should learn about their health at every grade level, was last updated more than two decades ago. Full story
Threat of penalties tempers protest: Activists protesting the state's rejection of an expansion of Medicaid stood outside the Senate chamber doors Tuesday, crying "shame" as lawmakers arrived for work Tuesday. But the threat of possible jail time and fines kept them quiet when the bell starting the day's session rang. Read more here and here.
Bakari Sellers gets cup of Joe: Democratic State Rep. Bakari Sellers and candidate for S.C. lieutenant governor, appeared on Morning Joe Tuesday, discussing a need to balance raising the minimum wage with the needs of small businesses. Sellers called for a gradual approach to raising wages. Sellers also called the roll-out of healthcare.gov, the federal insurance shopping website under the Affordable Care Act, an "epic failure." Watch the video here
Richard Cash makes Greenwood campaign stop: Easley businessman Richard Cash campaigned in Greenwood Tuesday, slamming U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and touting what he called a fundraising advantage over Graham's other primary challengers. Full story
Patrons, staff remember barbecue king: Patrons and staff who worked for Columbia barbecue king Maurice Bessinger, remember their boss and the man who was a segregationist and flew Confederate flags at his West Columbia eatery. Bessinger died at 83. Full story
Gov. Nikki Haley's public schedule today
• Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.: Hold a Budget and Control Board meeting on State House grounds (Agenda
includes the leases for privately built dorms and office building on the University of South Carolina campus and bonds to expand an engineering school building at Clemson and renovate the Tigers' baseball stadium and WestZone complex at the football stadium.)
• Wednesday, 12:30 p.m.: Join the S.C. National Guard and S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce for the launch of Operation Palmetto Employment at Sysco in Columbia
State House meetings
• 9 a.m.: Procurement Review Panel (Blatt Room 110,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: Education K-12 Subcommittee (Gressette Room 105,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: Judiciary Subcommittee on S.375 (Gressette Room 307,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: Finance Criminal Justice Subcommittee Budget Hearing (Gressette Room 207,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: Fish, Game and Forestry Subcommittee (Gressette Room 308,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: Judiciary Subcommittee on S.857 and S.887 (Gressette Room 209,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee Budget Hearings (Gressette Room 407,Agenda
• 10 a.m.: Finance Natural Resources and Economic Development Subcommittee Budget Hearing (Gressette Room 307,Agenda
• 10 a.m.: Transportation Subcommittee (Gressette Room 209,Agenda
• 10 a.m.: Finance Constitutional Subcommittee Budget Hearing (Gressette Room 408,Agenda
• 11 a.m.: Banking and Insurance Committee on S.569, S.826, S.908, S.909, S.1007 and H.4559 (Gressette Room 308,Agenda
• 11 a.m.: Judiciary Subcommittee on H.3369 and R.4399 (Gressette Room 207,Agenda
• 12 p.m.: Corrections and Penology Subcommittee (Gressette Room 209,Agenda
• 1 p.m.: Judiciary Subcommittee on S.810 (Gressette Room 207,Agenda
• 8:30 a.m.: SC General Assembly Women's Caucus (Blatt Room 305)
• 8:30 a.m.: Lower Savannah River Council of Governments (Blatt Room 321)
• 9 a.m.: 3-M Subcommittee III, Local Government and Corrections Affairs (Blatt Room 427,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: EPW Transportation Subcommittee on H.4386 (Blatt Room 433,Agenda
• 9 a.m.: Judiciary General Laws Subcommittee (Blatt Room 516,Agenda
• Upon adjournment of the House: LCI Banking and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee on H.4498 (Blatt Room 403,Agenda
• 1 p.m.: Rural Caucus (Blatt Room 305)
• 1½ hours after the House adjourns: Judiciary Family and Probate Laws Subcommittee (Blatt Room 516,Agenda
• 1½ hours after the House adjourns: Ways and Means Higher Education, Technical, and Cultural Budget Subcommittee and the K-16 Building Needs and Utilization Study Committee (Blatt Room 521,Agenda
• 2 p.m. or 1½ hours after the House adjourns: House Legislative Ethics Committee (Blatt Room 511,Agenda
• 3 p.m.: EPW Motor Vehicles and Public Works Subcommittee on H.4073 and H.4499 (Blatt Room 433,Agenda
• 8-10 a.m.: South Carolina Nursery & Landscape Association. Breakfast for House and Senate members (Blatt Building 112)
• 12-2 p.m.: South Carolina Athletic Trainers' Association. Luncheon for House, Senate and staff (Blatt Building 112)
• 6-8 p.m.: City of Columbia. Reception for House, Senate and staff (701 Whaley)
• 7-9 p.m.: South Carolina Association of Technical College Commissioners. Reception for House and Senate members(Clarion Hotel Downtown)
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