There will be changes in Gov. Nikki Haley’s Cabinet and senior staff, the newly re-elected Republican governor said last week.
Since Haley would not elaborate, The Buzz talked to some former chiefs of staff to get an idea about leadership in a second term.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said three of Haley’s top staffers have been key players — chief of staff Ted Pitts, legal counsel Swati Patel and director of legislative affairs Katherine Veldran.
Legislators trust those staffers, said Davis, who was a chief of staff for former Gov. Mark Sanford.
“If she’s happy with who she’s got in there, then she ought to keep them,” said Bob McAlister, a former chief of staff to Gov. Carroll Campbell. “But if she thinks that she needs new blood, then now would be the time to do it.”
Having a staffer on the second floor of the State House who is able to communicate with legislative leaders on a regular, friendly basis is key, said Scott English, another former Sanford chief of staff.
Haley could have more legislative support, based on the landslide victory that she won Tuesday, taking almost 56 percent of the vote.
Anytime a governor wins by that margin, it is a mandate to govern, a statement by voters statewide that they agree with the governor, said Davis.
Still, trying to achieve too much could be a bad idea, Davis added.
“There’s a danger, when you come off a big election win, to go ahead and try to do too much,” Davis said. If the governor spread her efforts too thin, she may end up short in results, he added.
As chief of staff, the goal should be to narrow the governor’s list of a dozen priorities down to two or three achievable objectives, Davis said.
English, another former Sanford chief of staff, said after an election is normally a good time for staffers and agency heads to do a gut check and decide if they really want to stay or move on.
But Haley’s administration already has seen more turnover at the agency director level than English said he experienced.
DUI and hacking debacles led to new leadership at two state agencies — Transportation, where Janet Oakley is the new director, and Revenue, where Rick Reames is the new head. There also is a vacancy at the embattled Department of Social Services after former director Lillian Koller resigned in June.
There also is a relatively new director, Ray Farmer, at the state Insurance Department.
The first term is about accomplishing promises made in the campaign, English said, adding Haley can check off more on-the-record voting for lawmakers and the reorganization of government.
Now, Haley should focus on her legacy, the impact she wants to have historically. “She’s now going to put her imprint as governor,” English said.
How soon she forgets
Nasty elections seem to lead to memory lapses.
Republican Gov. Nikki Haley had one last week after winning re-election over state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
Asked about working with the Camden Democrat, Haley told reporters gathered in the State House's second-floor lobby: “He never helped me with anything before. So if he helps now, that's great. If he doesn't, then it's no different than before.”
Really? Flashback to the same location in February.
Back then, Haley was surrounded by more than two dozen lawmakers, including Sheheen, for the ceremonial signing of a bill that handed more power to the governor's office.
Haley gave Sheheen, who had championed the bill for years, one of her bill-signing pens.
Does she want the pen back now?
They didn’t win Tuesday, but that didn’t stop some losers from claiming moral victories.
The American Party, a third party co-founded by former Democratic superintendent Jim Rex and former Republican candidate for governor Oscar Lovelace, touted its performance outpolling other third parties on Tuesday’s ballot.
American Party candidates received 153,752 votes combined, or 12.2 percent of the total votes cast.
“We are extremely proud of our candidates and the positive way in which they ran their races,” Rex said in a news release. “With few financial resources and no television ads, we showed that ideas do matter and that voters are seeking more options at the polls that they have been getting.”
Rex added Tuesday’s extremely low voter turnout was a sign that voters are disenchanted with status quo candidates.
Democrat Ginny Deerin, who ran unsuccessfully for secretary of state, said despite her loss she hopes to keep people optimistic and engaged in the political process.
Deerin charged that GOP incumbent Mark Hammond, who was re-elected with nearly 60 percent of the vote, worked part-time and wasted taxpayers’ money by commuting from Spartanburg. She rode a bicycle from Spartanburg to Columbia to raise awareness of her campaign and won the backing of some prominent Republicans, including Jenny Sanford, ex-wife of former Gov. Sanford.
“I got all of that support because of who I was,” she said. “I wasn’t running away from being a Democrat. I was very much a Democrat.”
Deerin cited her decision not to have paid advertising as one reason for her loss.
Her protestations aside, another factor could have been the “D” behind her name, given the Republican dominance in Tuesday’s election.
Even a Republican who withdrew from the race did well Tuesday.
Former Republican House Speaker Bobby Harrell received 39.1 percent the 10,683 votes cast in the race for the S.C. House District 114 seat.
Votes for Harrell did not count because he had agreed to resign his seat and not run for office as part of a guilty plea on public corruption charges.
But that didn’t stop residents in the Dorchester County portion of the district from giving Harrell more votes – 1,164 – than Democrat Mary Tinkler, who received 934 in the area.
Districtwide, Tinkler won 5,391 votes, or 50.5 percent of the ballots cast, including those cast for Harrell. Sue Edward, the Green Party candidate, received 986 votes, or 9.2 percent.
But that’s not what the official record will show.
It will show that — after all the votes for Harrell were disqualified — Tinkler received 82.9 percent of the votes cast to Edward’s 15.2 percent. (The balance went for write-in candidates.)