The Buzz

August 11, 2014

Exclusive: Petition candidate for SC governor, Tom Ervin, spending $2 million on TV ads

Petition gubernatorial candidate Tom Ervin is spending $2 million to air three TV ads statewide through Labor Day, according to a source close to his campaign.

The Buzz

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

Escaping petition gubernatorial candidate Tom Ervin on television will be difficult over the next three weeks.

The former state lawmaker and judge is spending $2 million to air three TV ads statewide through Labor Day, according to a source close to his campaign. The latest spot starts Tuesday.

“That’s a lot of money in a short window,” veteran S.C. GOP political consultant Chip Felkel said. “You won’t be able to avoid him.”

The ad buy means Ervin, a Greenville attorney and radio-station owner, will have laid out as much money — $3.5 million — as Republican incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley and Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen had spent together through June 30.

“This introduces South Carolinians to Tom Ervin and his common-sense solutions for a more inclusive economy, tough ethics reform and a quality education for every child,” Ervin campaign spokesman Christian Hertenstein said.

Ervin, a self-proclaimed “independent Republican” who is considered a long shot after entering the race in March, has self-financed much of his campaign so far.

All but $62,000 of the $1.5 million collected by Ervin’s campaign through June has come from personal loans. His wife, Kathryn Williams, runs a successful personal injury and worker’s compensation law practice.

But Ervin is far from the major-party candidates, according to a poll last month conducted for four S.C. media outlets. Ervin received 3 percent support from those polled, just ahead of Libertarian candidate Steve French, who has spent $2,500 so far.

Ervin’s August ad blitz could help bolster those numbers, Felkel said.

“That is one heck of a big bite out of the apple for a guy in single digits,” Felkel said. “This is his shot to stay relevant. ... He’s being serious. Now, he has to get voters to think about him as a serious candidate.”

Ervin’s newest ad — the third debuting in the past six days — highlights his ethics reform plan.

“If I'm in the big chair, we’re going to get rid of secret campaign accounts, get tough on lobbyists, term limits, and, now here's a stretch, stop politicians from taking gifts from special interests,” Ervin says in the ad.

The two other Ervin ads already airing feature a story narrated by his wife about Ervin paying for a funeral of a veteran and promote his economic plan, which includes eliminating the state personal income tax, fixing state roads and raising the minimum wage while adding small-business tax credits.

Haley started running her campaign’s third statewide television ad last week. That spot featured her program to get jobs for South Carolinians on the state’s welfare rolls. The governor has raised nearly $7 million through June 30 and had nearly $4.5 million on hand, according to state ethics filings.

Sheheen’s campaign has run one television ad. Like a spot by the Democratic Governors Association last month, that ad criticized Haley’s handling of the deaths of children with ties to the S.C. Department of Social Services. Sheheen has raised $2.7 million and had $1.7 million on hand at the end of June.

Ervin’s three ads do not mention Haley by name, though issues he raises in the ads — including ethics and road repairs — have been leveled as criticisms against the governor.

Failing to be being direct will not help the petition candidate, who dropped out of June GOP primary to have more time to make his case against Haley before the November general election.

“If you’re trying to unseat an incumbent, you have to make them unacceptable to voters,” Felkel said. “He does not have time to dance around the issue.”

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