Gov. Nikki Haley said Thursday she believed S.C. Senate candidate Mark Palmer would prove a “strong ally” in her efforts leading the state.
Haley endorsed Palmer, a York Republican, in his race for the District 17 seat at the Richburg Volunteer Fire Station on Thursday afternoon, saying Palmer was a “problem-solver” who would serve his constituents well.
“I would love to have a strong ally in the Senate like Mark,” said Haley. “He wants to prove to you that he can serve you. This is a sweet spot in South Carolina. I need a partner, someone who’ll fight for what’s best for these counties.”
Haley’s visit comes with the hopes of flipping an otherwise reliably Democratic district in the state Senate. The district includes part of York County, including southern Rock Hill and the area around York, and all of Chester and Fairfield counties.
District 17 has long been represented by Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Winnsboro, who was defeated in the Democratic primary by former educator Mike Fanning of Great Falls.
However, Fanning has come under scrutiny after the State Law Enforcement Division began investigating a complaint by a former student that Fanning had an “inappropriate relationship” with her while he was a high school teacher. Palmer has called the allegations “very disturbing,” and if true, “show he is unfit to serve in elected office.”
Fanning has denied the allegation and has not been charged with a crime.
The Democratic challenger has been absent from three recent planned debates, according to Palmer.
This is a toss-up race.
Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party on State Senate District 17 race
“He hasn’t responded to the allegations, and he doesn’t show up when the crowd isn’t on his side,” said Palmer, who said he believed voters hadn’t gotten the chance to vet them both properly. “We’ve got a large contingency of support. Each day, we’re getting closer to the finish line.”
Palmer, 57, said he was “thrilled” that Haley took the time to visit the area, calling Haley one of the most successful governors in the country.
Matt Moore, chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, said Palmer has flourished since he began as an “underfunded, upstart candidate.” With Haley at his side, Palmer touted his goals of bringing jobs and infrastructure improvements to District 17.
I would love to have a strong ally in the Senate like Mark. He wants to prove to you that he can serve you.
S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley
“This is a toss-up race,” said Moore. “(Palmer) is the candidate that will work across party lines to get work done in the district.”
Fanning, who is executive director of the Olde English Consortium, unseated 16-year incumbent Sen. Coleman in a Democratic primary runoff.
Fanning, 49, lives near Great Falls in Chester County.
Palmer is an Iraq war veteran and works as a system administrator for United Refrigeration Inc. in Rock Hill.
Haley said she believed small business representatives were the best people to work with when it comes to getting work done.
“His No. 1 passion is bringing jobs to the state,” said Haley.
U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, a Republican from Indian Land, made an appearance at the event in support of Palmer. Mulvaney is engaged in a spirited campaign for re-election to the U.S. House against Democratic challenger Fran Person of Tega Cay.