The Buzz

The Buzz: SC’s Gov. Haley catches some post-primary shade

Gov. Haley was hit last week with some blow back for her efforts in the June 14 S.C. GOP primary.

The first shots came from Republican S.C. Comptroller Gen. Richard Eckstrom at a Wednesday meeting of the S.C. Fiscal Accountability Authority, which met to approve proposals by the state’s retirement system.

Haley banged her gavel and called the meeting to order, declaring, “It’s another great day in South Carolina,” her go-to catchphrase that she customarily uses to start meetings and press conferences.

Eckstrom cut in, saying, “Governor, if I may,” and then proceeded to suggest Haley stop using that introduction. It “creates the impression or could create the impression of some inappropriate melding of politics and the public business that we come here to conduct,” he said.

Haley’s catchphrase ceased to be only a saying when a political group run by her adviser, formed to do Haley’s bidding, took the name and targeted Republican state senators in the GOP primaries.

“I worry that that perception could send a wrong message to other boards, other commissions, other authorities – some of whom are probably represented here today,” Eckstrom said. “But, more importantly, I worry that it could undermine the working relationship of other members of this board.”

Haley quashed that discussion quickly, responding, “I understand and I appreciate it, but for me, general, every day is a great day in South Carolina. ... Just because an organization happens to have that name doesn’t take away the fact I’m going to make sure that every day is a great day in South Carolina.”

Eckstrom likely was referring to Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, the powerful Florence Republican who Haley’s group, A Great Day SC, targeted in his primary. Leatherman staved off two primary challengers, including one backed by Haley, to win another four-year term. He faces no challengers in November.

Leatherman also walked out of the Haley-chaired meeting, without offering any explanation, after about an hour and 20 minutes. A Senate aide said he had another meeting to attend.

But his exit did not go over well.

After the first vote without Leatherman failed in a 2-2 tie, Haley blamed it on the Senate leader’s absence.

“I don’t know that that’s ever happened before,” Haley said. “And that’s why I canceled the last meeting because Sen. Leatherman wasn’t going to be here. And we can’t do PEBA (the state retirement votes) without him here.”

After the vote failed, the five-member panel agreed to take it up again. At that point, it passed with one member agreeing to abstain. Later votes followed a similar pattern with Haley noting the votes for, against and the “one that walked out.”