Reality-TV star and former S.C. treasurer Thomas Ravenel filed a petition Monday to run for the U.S. Senate as an independent.
Ravenel, of Charleston, submitted 16,469 signatures to the S.C. Election Commission on Monday. He needs 10,000 certified signatures from S.C. registered voters to make the ballot. The certification process will take about a month, an election official said.
If certified, Ravenel will join the ballot with incumbent Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of Seneca, Democratic nominee state Sen. Brad Hutto of Orangeburg, and Libertarian Victor Kocher of Columbia in November’s general election.
Ravenel ran for U.S. Senate in 2004 as a Republican, finishing third out of six candidates in the GOP primary. In 2006, he was elected state treasurer. In 2007, however, he resigned after pleading guilty to felony cocaine charges.
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More recently, Ravenel has been a star on “Southern Charm,” a Bravo reality-television show filmed in Charleston, and announced that he and his girlfriend have a baby daughter.
He also pleaded guilty to driving under the influence in Long Island, N.Y., earlier this year and had his license suspended for six months.
Ravenel said he would provide voters with a “true choice in November, not a false choice between two ... parties that have been bought and paid for, that are ideologically alike.”
Asked by a reporter if voters can trust him, Ravenel said, “I’ve done a lot of repeat business with people because they trust me, and I’ve paid my debts.
“In the business community, I have a sterling record,” he said. “I know I’m an imperfect messenger, but my personal life is my problem. Lindsey Graham’s public life is your problem.”
Ravenel said he would fight for limited government, “real spending cuts, tax cuts, market-based reforms so that we can redefine our relationship with government and ask not what our government can do for us, but what we can do for ourselves.”
The S.C. Republican Party immediately attacked Ravenel’s candidacy.
“We doubt many voters will be interested in a convicted felon who renounced his American citizenship,” said Matt Orr, press secretary of the S.C. GOP. “His so-called ‘campaign’ is an embarrassment, and the people of South Carolina don't appreciate it one bit.”
In a 2011 Facebook post, Ravenel said he was going to leave the United States because, as a felon, he could no longer own a gun. Monday, Ravenel called the threat to give up his citizenship a joke and said he loves the United States.
“I’m not going to leave this country,” he said.
S.C. law prevents felons from running for state office, but there is no prohibition for federal candidates.
Ravenel received a warmer welcome from the other challengers for the Senate seat.
“We welcome anyone with serious ideas to the race, and look forward to debating the issues that matter,” said Lachlan McIntosh, Democrat Hutto’s campaign manager. “Lindsey Graham loves being a Washington big shot, but he's lost touch with folks in South Carolina. It appears voters will have several choices with whom to replace him with come November.”
“I know that Thomas has expressed a desire to discuss issues from the perspective of liberty and I welcome that,” said Libertarian Kocher. “Voters in an election, just like consumers in the economy, deserve the widest possible array of competitive choices.”
Graham’s campaign did not talk about Monday’s events. Graham has $3.7 million in his campaign accounts after spending almost $7 million to beat six other candidates outright in the Republican primary.