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Democrats Smith, Noble pick running mates in the governor's race

Democrat James Smith kicks off campaign for SC Governor

James Smith's campaign kick off rally included speeches from former Governor Jim Hodges, state representative Mandy Powers Norell and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin
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James Smith's campaign kick off rally included speeches from former Governor Jim Hodges, state representative Mandy Powers Norell and Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin

State Rep. James Smith of Columbia, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for S.C. governor, is expected to name fellow state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell as his running mate when he campaigns in Lancaster on Friday, according to multiple sources with knowledge of Smith's plans.

Meanwhile, Charleston businessman Phil Noble, who also is seeking the Democratic nomination for governor, reportedly will name former 7th District congressional candidate Gloria Bromell Tinubu as his running mate.

Powers Norrell, a 44-year-old Lancaster Democrat, has served alongside Smith in the S.C. House since 2013.

The Furman University and University of South Carolina law school graduate declined to comment Tuesday. But Smith's upcoming announcement is among the worst-kept secrets in Columbia this week.

The announcement could give Smith's campaign a boost in his June 12 Democratic primary race against Florence attorney Marguerite Willis — and her running mate, state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland — and Noble.

Also, the Post and Courier of Charleston reported Tuesday that Noble will pick Tinubu, who lost bids for Congress in 2012 and 2014 to 7th District U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach. Asked for confirmation, Noble said, "Stay tuned."

The 2018 election is the first time candidates for S.C. governor will run on a joint ticket, choosing their lieutenant governor.

Picking a running mate can balance a ticket — similar to how presidential candidates pick their running mates — adding diversity in race, gender, geography and experience.

Norrell represents rural Lancaster County, a contrast to Smith's urban Columbia district. She also was the first in her family to graduate from college, paying tuition by working at a textile mill.

Norrell's State House colleagues sang her praises Tuesday, pointing to her upbringing and experience.

"She has proven herself to be someone who has a lot of respect up here (at the State House)," said state Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter, who has not endorsed a Democratic candidate for governor. "She is a pragmatist. She's a bridge builder and someone who has proven that she can get things done."

Norrell is seen as a rising star in the state Democratic Party, having delivered her party's response to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's State of the State address in 2016.

"She would bring a lot to his (Smith's) ticket," said state Rep. Beth Bernstein, D-Richland. "They share a common goal of improving the lives of South Carolinians. She's intelligent. She's a woman, and she works really hard. She's the first person in her family to go to college and is the child of mill workers. She can relate with the working-class citizens of South Carolina."

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter
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