Margaret Fisher’s bid to become Lexington County coroner is getting high-powered help with a contribution from Gov. Nikki Haley.
Haley and husband Michael signaled their endorsement of fellow Republican Fisher with the $100 donation made public Tuesday.
It’s the governor’s first personal contribution to a local candidate since she became state leader in 2011, according to records at the State Ethics Commission.
“The Haleys have known Margaret and Clifford Fisher a long time and they wanted to support her campaign with a personal donation,” Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said.
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Fisher faces Brian Setree, a former chief deputy coroner, in the July 15 GOP runoff ballot.
The pair were the top two vote-getters among seven candidates in a July 1 primary, with the runoff necessary because none received more than 50 percent of ballots then.
Haley’s decision surprised Setree, who declined comment on it Tuesday other than to say, “I can see the way the stars are aligning.”
Help from the Haleys is unexpected, even though both families are longtime political allies, Fisher said.
“It’s amazing,” said Fisher, who works as a Richland County deputy. “I’m thrilled by it.”
Fisher’s husband – owner of a construction firm – gave Haley’s re-election bid a $250 donation in February 2013, records show.
One of Setree’s main supporters is former state Sen. Jake Knotts, a longtime Haley foe.
Haley is a former state representative from Lexington County and still sends her children to school there.
“It’s a community (the Haleys) care very much about,” Godfrey said.
Fisher also is backed by State Sen. Katrina Shealy of Red Bank, who defeated Knotts in a 2012 showdown.
Too much is being made of how political leaders are taking sides in the race, Setree said.
“It’s sad how it’s become a Katrina Shealy/Jake Knotts coroner’s race when neither one has anything to do with it,” he said.
The contest is the most spirited race for the post in two generations.
Former coroner Harry Harman faced few challengers after winning the post in 1976 and holding it until his death April 18.
Interest in the match to be his successor belies the traditional political low profile of a post overseeing the investigation of the cause and manner of violent and unusual deaths. It handles about 1,900 cases a year. The coroner’s salary is about $86,000 a year.
With no Democrat running, winning the GOP runoff is tantamount to winning election Nov. 4. The winner will serve through 2016.