The Buzz

Ad ties SC candidate for governor to Bernie Sanders. Problem is he backed Hillary

When Gov Henry McMaster and Rep. James Smith won their party nominations last month, they ensured that a Columbian will be elected South Carolina governor for the first time since 1878.
When Gov Henry McMaster and Rep. James Smith won their party nominations last month, they ensured that a Columbian will be elected South Carolina governor for the first time since 1878.

The Republican Governors Association on Tuesday released a new attack ad in the S.C. governor’s race, trying to tie Democratic nominee James Smith to Bernie Sanders.

The problem?

Smith endorsed former secretary of state and eventual Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in January 2016, ahead of South Carolina’s February presidential primaries.

Before that, state Rep. Smith of Columbia was a backer of former Vice President Joe Biden.

The ad and an accompanying website labels Smith as a “liberal politician,” claiming he supports “Bernie Sanders-style big government.” Republican Governors Association spokesman John Burke claims Smith spent years in Columbia pushing for higher taxes on working S.C. families “to pay for big government programs.”

Burke pointed to Smith’s support for increasing the state’s gas tax and temporarily repealing some sales-tax exemptions — bipartisan proposals backed by both Democrats and Republicans aimed at repairing the state’s crumbling roads and creating a fairer tax system.

Burke also pointed to Smith’s response at a January event to a question about whether he would support Medicare-for-all, a Sanders proposal. “I certainly believe in it,” Smith responded, adding, “In terms of universal health care, there’s only so much a governor can do, a lot of that has to be determined by federal legislation.”

The GOP governors group’s ad also tries to slam Smith for one of his business ventures — the Congaree Group. That company has received government contracts since 2010, mostly from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide valet services for veterans who are treated at VA hospitals. Smith’s status as a service-disabled veteran allowed him access to the federal contracts, reserved specifically for veteran-owned small businesses.

Smith’s company briefly lost its special status with the VA because it missed a deadline to provide the VA with several documents during a review, Smith has said. The company’s status was restored after he appealed and provided those documents, and the VA has affirmed its special status twice since then.

“The RGA continues to insult SC voters with this tired, false, divisive drivel that has driven so many good people away from politics,” Smith tweeted in response to the GOP ad. “This campaign is not about big government or small government. It’s about smart government. Which would be a big change.”

Smith faces Republican incumbent S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster in November’s general election.

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton83
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