Nikki Haley, the governor, and Nikki Haley, the candidate, came close together Wednesday.
At 11 a.m., Haley — the governor — attended the grand opening of bicycle-maker Kent International in Manning.
At 2:30 p.m., Haley — the candidate — released a TV ad supporting her re-election featuring Kent’s chief executive, Arnold Kamler.
The ad, another effort promoting the Republican front-runner's economic-development work, lauds Haley for luring manufacturing to South Carolina from overseas and highlights New Jersey-based Kent International, which has built bikes in China and other countries.
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Kent’s Manning plant will hire up to 200 workers to make bikes for Wal-Mart as part of the retail chain's initiative to back U.S. manufacturing. Kamler says in the ad that his company came to South Carolina after working directly with Haley, who has spoken at Wal-Mart supplier conferences.
One of Haley's opponents, petition candidate Tom Ervin, criticized the governor last week for receiving campaign contributions from companies that have been given economic-development incentives by the state.
Kent International contributed $2,500 to Haley's campaign in May, according to state records. The company also is receiving job-creation tax credits from the state, according to an S.C. Department of Commerce news release. That release did not mention any local government incentives for the project.
“Gov. Haley loves fattening her campaign accounts by redistributing the tax dollars of hard-working South Carolinians,” Ervin campaign spokesman Christian Hertenstein said. “Picking winners and putting them in her campaign ads just rubs the taxpayers' face in it.”
The campaign manager for Democratic candidate Vincent Sheheen painted Wednesday’s events as another ethical lapse by Haley.
“Once again, Nikki Haley is unethically mixing official business with campaign politics,” Sheheen campaign manager Andrew Whalen said. “We’ll never have ethical government without ethical leaders.”
Haley’s campaign said the timing of Wednesday’s events was coordinated.
“Our campaign thought today was a great time to release this ad in concert with the announcement of 200 new jobs in Clarendon County,” spokeswoman Chaney Adams said. “Gov. Haley’s whiny opponents should go to Clarendon and say they’d rather have these jobs stay in China.”
A political scientist said most voters will not be troubled by Haley’s mix of state business and politics.
“It’s not out of the ordinary,” Citadel political scientist Scott Buchanan said. “They will take it as a governor touting her ability to attract jobs to state. That has been her strong suit.”
Most voters already have made up their minds this close to the Nov. 4 election, he said.
Buchanan added he does not think most voters will be upset about Haley accepting campaign contributions from companies that have development deals with the state.
“There’s an old saying in politics: ‘You support your friends,’ ” Buchanan said. “This is an example of supporting someone who has had an interest in business.”