State Rep. James Smith has not announced he is running for governor in 2018. But he is playing the part.
The Columbia attorney on Monday fueled speculation he soon will become the first Democrat to enter the 2018 race, participating in the Chapin Labor Day Parade for the first time.
Smith walked the nearly mile-long parade route, stopping to shake hands and introduce himself to many of the 20,000 people there.
“I have never had the privilege to be a part of the Chapin Labor Day Parade,” Smith told The State newspaper. “I was invited by a number of folks in the community here to be a part of it. I have known about the tremendous Labor Day tradition that this parade is, so I wanted to be a part of it.”
The parade is a popular stop for politicians seeking elected office or weighing a run, serving as an unofficial kickoff to the South Carolina campaign season. Of the more than 100 entrants in the parade Monday, at least 13 were politicians.
They included U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca; U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale; Republican S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson; state Sen. Ronnie Cromer, R-Newberry; state Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Richland; and state Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Lexington.
The World War II-era Jeep cruising beside the Columbia attorney displayed Smith’s campaign signs for his seat in the S.C. House. But for months, Smith has considered jumping into the governor’s race, which already has four Republicans.
The town of Chapin is well outside Smith’s House district, which covers much of downtown Columbia. Smith would not say whether his appearance is directly tied to a run for higher office.
“It is an opportunity to connect with more South Carolinians, and it’s a real privilege to be able to do that,” Smith said.