With less than a week to go before the election, the state’s two major gubernatorial candidates are trading shots over the endorsement by Tom Ervin of Sen. Vincent Sheheen.
GOP Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday morning she was not surprised by Ervin’s endorsement of Sheheen because she views both as Democratic trial lawyers.
The day after Ervin, a petition candidate who liked to describe himself as an independent Republican, quit the governor’s race, Haley said Ervin’s campaign “smelled bad from the beginning.”
“I always said I was running against two Democrat trial lawyers,” she said. “I still believe that.”
Haley stopped short of alleging Sheheen and Ervin colluded against her but said “the facts speak for themselves.”
“From the very beginning, there was clearly trial lawyer togetherness with the two of them and they both have had great times with their attacks,” she said. “We saw this from the beginning. People knew this from the beginning.”
Ervin, who joined Sheheen Wednesday on the campaign trail, responded that it was “ridiculous and absurd” to imply that he and Sheheen were coordinating their campaigns.
“I’m a proud member of the Republican Party,” Ervin said. “I’m not proud of our governor. She needs to retire back to Lexington County. Maybe she would like to go back to Bamberg County, where the unemployment rate is 13.3 percent.”
Ervin, a former judge and Greenville lawyer, said he was critical of Sheheen during the campaign and still does not agree with all of his platform. But he described Sheheen as a “man of integrity” and said the state needs honest leadership.
Both he and Sheheen attacked the governor Wednesday over her ethics.
Said Sheheen, “For Governor Haley to comment about ethics is absolutely the height of hypocrisy.”
“You have a governor who wazs convicted of ethics violations and had to pay fines,” he said. “Who took payments from a government contractor and didn’t report it. The investigation was white-washed by a now convicted House speaker’s ethics committee.”
In fact, Sheheen said he believes Haley’s actions in the area of ethics were worse than those of House Speaker Bobby Harrell, who pleaded guilty last week to six counts of misusing campaign funds.
Sheheen also repeated his criticism of Haley in the handling of the massive hacking of state tax agency computers two years ago, accusing the governor of secrecy, both in waiting to announce the crime and of keeping a final investigative report hidden from the public.
State Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel has said he asked for Haley to wait before publicly disclosing the hacking to give investigators more time in their probe.
Haley led Sheheen in the latest Winthrop Poll by 10 points, before Ervin announced he was suspending his campaign. Ervin was the choice of 3.9 percent of those surveyed in the poll.
Two other candidates, Steve French, the nominee of the Libertarian Party, and Morgan Bruce, the United Citizens Party candidate, also are running for governor.