The Buzz

SC GOP leaders rally to Senate leader Leatherman

As Republican Gov. Nikki Haley works to defeat Senate leader Hugh Leatherman in his primary next week, three other GOP leaders are endorsing the Florence Republican.

South Carolina’s Republican House Speaker Jay Lucas, Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster and Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman will appear with Leatherman at a Florence campaign event Thursday, the senator’s campaign said Tuesday.

“I’ve just found him to be a dedicated and hard-working public servant over the years,” said Lucas, who said he has known Leatherman for 18 years.

Leatherman’s role as chairman of the Senate’s budget-writing Finance Committee also “bodes well for the folks in the Pee Dee,” added Lucas, who represents Darlington County. “He brings a voice to this region that we have not had for decades.”

The reinforcements could help Leatherman, who has been in the Senate since 1981, and faces opposition from the governor and her allies.

Haley has endorsed former Florence County GOP chairman Richard Skipper, who is challenging Leatherman.

A political group tied to Haley, called a Great Day SC, is mounting a six-figure campaign targeting Leatherman and two other long-time state senators, who the governor does not think have been supportive of her agenda.

Of Haley opposing Leatherman, Lucas said Florence County voters pay attention to state politics. “I believe next Tuesday they will pick the right choice as their senator.”

McMaster, who was state GOP party chairman when Leatherman switched parties in the early 1990s, said Leatherman is a good friend.

“He’s got a great understanding and knowledge of the intricacies of state government,” McMaster said, adding, “Such knowledge is essential to getting things done.”

Superintendent Spearman cited her work with Leatherman on education issues as her reason for supporting the Senate president pro tempore.

“Senator Leatherman has been a long-standing supporter of public education, and has fought for better schools and brighter futures for the students of South Carolina,” Spearman said in a statement.

Cassie Cope: 803-771-8657, @cassielcope

McMaster backs Rankin

Republican Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster will appear Friday at a re-election event for state Sen. Luke Rankin, R-Horry. Rankin, who GOP Gov. Nikki Haley has targeted in next Tuesday’s Republican primary, has been a senator since 1993. McMaster will appear at the chicken bog and barbecue at 6 p.m. Friday at the Waccamaw Shrine Club.