Tag Archives: Nikki Haley

South Carolina Run-off Numbers

By Jim Ellis

May 15, 2017 — Northern South Carolina Republican voters will go to the polls Tuesday to choose a special election nominee in the vacant 5th Congressional District run-off election. The June 20 special general winner will replace former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster) who resigned from Congress to become Director of the Office of Management & Budget.

We remember the results from the special primary vote held 10 days ago that almost ended in a tie. Seven Republicans originally entered the GOP contest, and it quickly became clear that a two-week run-off period would be necessary to determine a final nominee. Few expected, however, that the original vote would come close to deadlocking.

State House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope (above) arguably began as the favorite for the nomination. Ironically, it is likely that he wouldn’t have even been a congressional candidate had not incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley (R) been appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations. The move allowed Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) to ascend to the state’s top job where he can now run for a full term unencumbered by the term limit that would have ended Gov. Haley’s tenure. In an open seat situation, Pope intended to run for governor.

The second major candidate, state representative and former congressional nominee Ralph Norman (below) quickly jump-started his political effort by resigning from the legislature to go “all-in” for the congressional race. His campaign aggressiveness paid off as he drew virtually even with Pope in the primary vote.

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Filing Closes in SC-5

By Jim Ellis

March 15, 2017 — The special election that has so far attracted the least attention in this active early political season is Office of Management & Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s north-central South Carolina congressional district.

Most believe the Republicans will retain the seat, but while the GOP victories here have been consistently solid, they are not landslides. Then-state Sen. Mulvaney first won the district under a different configuration in 2010, ousting 14-term Congressman John Spratt (D-Rock Hill) in a 55-45 percent result. The Republican incumbent then averaged 57.8 percent of the vote in his three subsequent re-election campaigns, reaching his highest total this past November, at 59.2 percent.

Seven Republicans, three Democrats, and five minor party contenders have filed as candidates. In South Carolina, the special election system is partisan and three-tiered. The party primaries are posted for May 2. Using the state’s typical two-week run-off format, the secondary election will be May 16 if no candidate secures an absolute majority in the first vote. The special general is scheduled for June 20.

In all likelihood, with seven Republicans on the primary ballot, it is probable that the GOP contest will yield a run-off election. Democrats appear to have one serious candidate compared to a pair of “also-ran” contenders. Therefore, it is at least plausible that the Democratic nominee will be chosen in the May 2 primary.

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The Governors’ 2014 Scorecard

The 2014 gubernatorial cycle is shaping up to become one of the most competitive in recent years.

Now that the 2013 governors’ races are in the books, it’s a good time to look at the state chief executives from a national political perspective. At the beginning of the cycle, the Republicans held 30 state houses versus 20 for the Democrats, the best GOP showing in the modern political era. With Terry McAuliffe’s victory in the Virginia open race last week, Democrats have already gained one governor’s post, meaning the updated margin is now 29R-21D.

At this early point in the campaign cycle, it appears that as many as 13 races, nine Republican-held and four Democratic, should be rated as highly competitive. The most vulnerable of all incumbents standing for re-election are governors Rick Scott (R-FL) and Tom Corbett (R-PA), who trail potential Democratic opponents in all surveys. The most vulnerable Democratic seat is the Arkansas open (Gov. Mike Beebe, D, is ineligible to seek a third term), where former GOP Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-AR-3) consistently polls ahead of ex-Rep. Mike  Continue reading >

Senate Picture Changes Again

Hawaii

The passing of venerable Senator Dan Inouye (D-HI) has brought yet another vacancy to the Senate. Mr. Inouye, first elected to Congress as Hawaii’s original member of the House of Representatives in 1959, won his first senatorial term in 1962. He served continuously until yesterday. Along with retiring seat-mate Daniel Akaka (D), Hawaii had the most senior delegation in the nation. With Inouye’s death and Akaka leaving in January, the state will now have two freshman senators, losing a combined 70 years in seniority.

The Hawaii seat now becomes the 35th in the 2014 election cycle. Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) will choose an interim appointment who will serve until a 2014 special election is held concurrently with the regular November vote. The winner will then serve the remaining two years of Inouye’s term, meaning the seat will be contested for a full six-year stint in 2016. Should Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) be appointed Secretary of State, as many believe will soon happen, the Massachusetts, Hawaii, and South Carolina seats will all be going to special election in 2014 with a regular election for the same seat following two years later.

South Carolina

In South Carolina, Gov. Nikki Haley (R), surprising many who believed would act after the first of the year, announced that she will appoint Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1) to replace outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint (R). Continue reading>

Haley Narrows Her List

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) visit to the Charleston area yesterday did not result in her naming a replacement for outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint (R) as some thought it might, but reports from her office suggest that her short list contains five names.

Top Choice: Rep. Tim Scott

Most believe the leading contender is freshman Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1), who won a big re-election in November and was subsequently appointed to the House Ways & Means Committee. Aside from being a capable replacement for DeMint, Rep. Scott scores political points for the governor in several ways. Haley is standing for re-election in 2014 with upside down approval ratings, and along comes a new Public Policy Polling survey (Dec. 7-9; 520 registered South Carolina voters) that posts her two points behind (44-46 percent) the man she defeated in 2010, Democratic state Sen. Vincent Shaheen. This tells us that the governor needs political strengthening.

Among other benefits, the Scott appointment would allow her to take credit for appointing the first African-American senator in the state’s post-Reconstruction history. Secondly, since Scott enjoys strong support from South Carolina’s Tea Party movement, selecting him would help Haley with the very group that could bring forth a challenger against her in the Republican primary. Third, by appointing the Charleston area congressman, she can restore the Upcountry/Low Country balance that the state traditionally featured. Both current senators, DeMint and Lindsey Graham (R), are from the northwestern sector of the state. Thus, she could theoretically increase her Charleston area support with this move. Fourth, Haley would gain kudos from national conservatives who are also pushing Scott for the appointment, possibly including Sen. DeMint himself. Though he claims not to be lobbying for anyone, most observers believe that the outgoing incumbent favors Rep. Scott as his successor.

The Remaining Four Options

Others on what is believed to be her short list of contenders are Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC-4), state cabinet officer Catherine Templeton, former Attorney General Henry McMaster (R), and Jenny Sanford, the state’s former First Lady, who handled herself so positively during her husband’s — former Gov. Mark Sanford — nationally publicized extra-marital affair.

Rep. Gowdy, also a freshman who just won a big re-election, brings little to the table for Haley. Though conservative, he represents DeMint’s former congressional district, so he fails to bring any geographic balance. He is unknown outside of the Greenville-Spartanburg region, so it’s difficult to see how the governor improves her own standing through his appointment.

Templeton is a confidant of the governor who already has received appointments to a pair of statewide cabinet posts. She currently is in charge of the South Carolina Department of Health. She hails from the Charleston area, thus bringing geographical balance but has little in the way of a political base. Furthermore, Templeton has no legislative experience, so starting her career as a legislator in the United States Senate will require a rather large learning curve that could put her well behind in preparing for a statewide election. This could make her vulnerable in what would likely transform itself into a messy primary confrontation — something Haley will certainly want to avoid.

McMaster is a former two-term attorney general and chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. He ran against Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-SC) in 1986, and for governor against Haley, herself, in 2010. McMaster finished a distant third in the gubernatorial primary contest, failing to secure the second run-off position. That fell to Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC-3), who Haley defeated in a landslide. McMaster, from Columbia, does not appear to be a good fit for Haley, but including him on her short list does throw a bone to the state’s Republican establishment.

Jenny Sanford is a popular figure with obviously high name identification. She, too, is from Charleston and highly identified with the city, since she maintained the family home there instead of moving to the Governor’s Mansion in Columbia when her husband was elected. Sanford is not closing the door on accepting the appointment, saying she is “honored” to be considered. What is probably more likely than her being appointed to the Senate is running in the special election for the 1st Congressional District – her husband’s former House seat – should Scott receive the appointment.

The Likely Outcome

The prevailing political winds point toward Gov. Haley appointing Rep. Scott. Expect this action to occur immediately upon Sen. DeMint’s official resignation. All of the prospective candidates on this list would be competent Senators for the state, so making a credible selection is not an issue. Since Scott is the best political pick, and the governor needs a political boost, the odds are strong that she will soon turn in his direction.

Gov. Nikki Haley

Haley Calls Charleston News Conference

Gov. Nikki Haley

Gov. Nikki Haley

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) has scheduled a news conference in Charleston today, leading to speculation that she could tab Charleston Congressman Tim Scott (R-SC-1) as outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint’s replacement. Haley has not indicated who she will appoint, or even if she will address the Senatorial vacancy in her news availability, but she did issue a statement that appears to reject the notion of choosing a caretaker for the position.

Rep. Scott would become the first African-American to represent South Carolina since Reconstruction. He was first elected to the House in 2010, and enjoys strong support from the conservative wing of the party. Such being the case, it is probable that he would have little trouble in claiming the party nomination for the 2014 special election in order to serve the remainder of DeMint’s term. Since the seat is regularly in-cycle in 2016, the special election winner will have to run again in just two years.

Should Scott gain the appointment and solidify himself early for election, then conservative attention could return to finding a primary challenger for Sen. Lindsey Graham (R), who will also be on the ballot in 2014. Rep. Scott was just appointed to the House Ways & Means Committee, meaning that this vacancy would likely be filled before the end of January. Should Scott or any other member of the Congressional delegation be chosen, a special election would be called in early 2013 to determine a replacement.

Sen. Jim Demint

DeMint Moves to Heritage; Who’s Next?

Sen. Jim DeMint

Sen. Jim DeMint

The unexpected announcement that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) will resign his seat in January to become president of the Heritage Foundation yields two major surprises. First, is the timing of his departure. Though Mr. DeMint had pledged to only serve two senatorial terms upon his original election, he still has four years remaining in his allotted tenure. Second, the big winner lurking behind the scenes in this unfolding scenario could be South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham.

DeMint has been a key conservative leader since his original election to the state’s 4th Congressional District in 1998. That year he pledged to serve only three terms in Washington. During DeMint’s final year in the House, Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings announced that he would not seek re-election, thus providing the outgoing congressman an opportunity to seek an open Senate seat in 2004.

With the Senate moving further left after the 2012 election results, the opportunity of helping to craft and rebuild the conservative movement outside Congress by running one of the premier right-of-center think tanks proved more alluring to DeMint that toiling in an even smaller minority.

Sen. Graham factors into this scenario differently. Facing the voters in 2014, speculation has been prevalent that he would soon receive a primary challenge from the right, one that could be serious since the senator has strayed much further to the middle of the ideological spectrum than the average South Carolina Republican primary voter. Now that the DeMint seat will also be up for election in 2014, much of the attention will be drawn away from Graham and onto who will become DeMint’s replacement. Many of Graham’s potential challengers will likely find an open seat or running against an appointed incumbent to be a more appealing option.

The Replacement Scenarios

Under South Carolina election law, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) will appoint an interim senator until the next regular general election in 2014. The winner of that election serves the remainder of DeMint’s term, meaning said individual will stand for a full six-year term in 2016. Haley could appoint someone who will run for the long term or choose to select a caretaker – an individual agreeing only to serve for the 113th Congress and not be an election candidate in 2014.

In either event, Haley has many people from which to choose. Republicans control all eight constitutional offices in addition to the governor’s post, along with having six members of the US House of Representatives. Still others, such as former attorney general and state Republican Party chairman Henry McMaster, are ex-statewide officials. Reportedly, McMaster would not be interested in a caretaker appointment. Former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson is reportedly interested in being considered. Former US Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins is also being mentioned as a potential appointment candidate.

Who eventually becomes the interim senator may depend on what Haley sees as her own future. The option of resigning as governor and having Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (R), after he ascends into the governor’s office, appoint her to the Senate is a non-starter. Governors who have tried such schemes have always been pummeled at the polls in the next election. If she has interest in the seat herself, she could appoint a person who will not seek election in 2014, and then she could run in the open seat. Haley’s own position will be coming up for election also in that year, so the governor would have to choose between the two offices.

The senior Republican in the congressional delegation is Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC-2), and his son, Alan, is the state’s attorney general. Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1), believed to be Sen. DeMint’s favored choice to succeed him, would become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction. Should the governor choose a member of the congressional delegation, a succeeding special election would then be held to replace the newly appointed senator.

Since the DeMint announcement caught the political community by surprise, it will take several days to sort out. The jockeying for the Senate appointment will soon begin, however, and Gov. Haley will be forced to act quickly since DeMint will be leaving office in early January.

The announcement also means that 34 Senate elections will be contested in 2014 instead of 33.