The Buzz

July 3, 2014

Ravenel plans to take fight for liberties into Senate race

Thomas Ravenel, the former state treasurer who resigned after cocaine charges, is expected to jump into U.S. Senate race on Friday in his attempt to unseat Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham as a petition candidate.

The Buzz

A blog from The State's political team of Cassie Cope, Jamie Self and Andy Shain. Email tips to

Thomas Ravenel, the former state treasurer who resigned after cocaine charges, is expected to jump into U.S. Senate race as a petition candidate on Friday in his attempt to unseat Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham.

Using Independence Day as a backdrop, he promises to push for more liberties and reduced government – the libertarian-style rhetoric has offered on social media in recent years.

“I’m a flawed messenger, but my message is better than the other guy’s,” Ravenel told The State.

Ravenel ran for the Senate in 2004 when he was considered a rising star in the Republican party. He spent about $3 million of his own money and finished third in a primary won eventually by Jim DeMint. His old Senate campaign account has $389 in cash and $234,946 in outstanding loans, according to federal records. Ravenel said the loan is money he gave the campaign to pay vendors.

Ahead of traveling to Greenville‘s Red, White and Blue Festival for the expected announcement, Ravenel, a Charleston developer and one-time reality television star, said he was not sure if he would duel “dime for dime” with Graham who raised close to $7 million in his primary run.

But he said voters deserve a deep thinker on issues as opposed to the Seneca Republican who “listens to whomever cuts his checks.”

Ravenel said the race’s Democratic nominee, state Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, is “running as a Republican in drag” while pushing a pro-business agenda.

Running as a petition candidate makes Ravenel a longshot. He also must collect 10,000 signatures from voters by July 15 to get on the November ballot.

“I didn't realize he was still an American citizen,” S.C. GOP party chairman Matt Moore said in reference to a Facebook post by Ravenel in 2011 where he supposedly renounced his citizenship after learning he could not own a firearm with his conviction.

Despite attracting a lot of attention, Ravenel will not have an effect on the race, Citadel political scientist Scott Buchanan said. “Just because people like to read about him does not mean they will go vote for him on a Tuesday.”

If he gets to Capitol Hill, Ravenel said he would work to undo the deals cut between Democrats and Republicans that he puts as “you pay for our welfare state and we’ll pay for your warfare state.”

He believes in a foreign policy based in restraint where military force is used only when absolutely necessary to protect America’s direct interests.

Getting involved in the Middle East is only strengthening militants who might harm the United States.

“We don’t know what we’re doing,” Ravenel said.

In addition, the fear of domestic terrorist attacks – something a lot less likely than dying in a bathtub mishap – has allowed the federal government to erode freedoms inside the United States, he said.

“We need to have the military stop engaging in conflicts across the globe,” he said. “It infringes on our rights.”

The liberties he seeks extend to repealing the drug laws and shuttering the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Seven months after becoming state treasurer in 2007, he was out of office after a cocaine bust. He spent 10 months in federal prison and three years probation.

Ravenel, 51, said having a daughter this year with “Southern Charm” co-star Kathryn Dennis, 23, has helped him settle down. He does not plan to appear on the show if Bravo airs a second season.

“I stay at home at night. I don’t go anywhere,” he said. “I have learned the true meaning of responsibility by becoming a father.”

One thing voters should not expect, Ravenel said, is an election-season wedding. He not sure when, or if, he might tie the knot.

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