In 2010, then-Rep. Nikki Haley defeated Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen and United Citizens candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves in the race for governor, carrying 51 percent of the vote. This year, Sheheen and Reeves are having an electoral rematch against the Republican incumbent, but two more candidates have been added to the ballot. South Carolina, meet the
five four people who want to be your next governor:
Tom J. Ervin (Independent) WITHDRAWN
Greenville attorney Tom J. Ervin has invested $3.4 million in loans and personal funds toward his independent bid for governor, and while he acknowledges the lack of party support makes him a long shot, he says he wants to shape the debate in the governor's race.
For starters, Ervin is talking about sweeping ethics reform. He says the state should ban legislators from becoming lobbyists within two years after leaving office. And he's calling for term limits for legislators and constitutional officers.
"We're at a crisis point trying to deal with the culture of corruption in Columbia, and I see an opportunity to clean it up, drain the swamp of corruption," Ervin says.
Ervin says the state should also change the way it uses economic incentives to lure industry to South Carolina, and he says incentives shouldn't be used to attract national retail outlets at the expense of local retailers.
"If they're used responsibly, then certainly if I'm governor we'll continue to use incentives, but we won't use them in a pay-to-play scheme, and we won't use them for companies that have a shady financial history or they've been in violation of state and federal laws as relates to pollution," Ervin says.
A former state representative who served as a Democrat from 1979 to 1983, Ervin says he is now a Republican but disagrees with some Haley administration decisions that he says were motivated more by partisan politics than public service. For starters, he says Haley was wrong to reject federal money for Medicaid expansion.
"Now, I don't like necessarily all of the provisions of Obamacare myself — I didn't like the individual mandate — but the fact of the matter is our Supreme Court of the United States said it was the law of the land," Ervin says. "Once that decision was made, Gov. Haley had an important choice to make. She decided what's best for Nikki Haley's political career and her re-election. She chose to politicize it."
On the topic of marriage equality, Ervin says "it's a waste of taxpayer resources" to continue defending South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban. Ervin says he would decriminalize possession of marijuana on the first offense and support the legalization of medical marijuana. And in education, he shares a goal with Democratic candidate Vincent Sheheen: providing four-year-old kindergarten classes in every district.
"It's a matter of setting priorities. It should have already been done," Ervin says. "All the studies show that if you want the best outcomes, you have to start early with kids."
Steve French (Libertarian)
The most memorable catchphrase in the Oct. 14 gubernatorial debate at Charleston Southern University came from Libertarian candidate Steve French. "I look at jobs like I look at sex," French said. "You shouldn't brag about it if you have to pay for it."
French was making a dig at the state's long-standing practice of offering economic and tax incentives to lure major employers like Boeing and BMW. As a Libertarian, French says the state shouldn't use incentives of any kind to incentivize businesses.
"We need to talk about making South Carolina the freest state," French says. "If we have the lowest taxes, the best schools, if we're socially tolerant by getting the government out of marriage and decriminalizing marijuana, the buzz will get out, and I won't need to offer one dime to any company." French says he would also like to allow casinos to operate in South Carolina.
If elected, French says he would work to eliminate South Carolina's income tax. Income tax brought the state $2.8 billion in revenue in Fiscal Year 2012-2013, so, in order to balance the budget, French would make some large cuts. For starters, he says he would eliminate the Department of Commerce. He also says the state's pension fund could be better managed, siding with S.C. Treasurer Curtis Loftis in his criticism of the Retirement System Investment Commission for racking up hundreds of millions of dollars in investment-management fees. He also says decriminalizing marijuana use would save the state millions in incarceration costs.
On the topic of education, French favors the use of vouchers, which would allow parents to spend public tax dollars on private-school tuition instead of public school.
French also says the state's ethics laws are in need of an overhaul.
"We are the only state in this country that allows our legislature to appoint judicial nominees," French says. "So when you really look at the conflict of interest that that poses, how will we ever get justice? How will we ever get accountability?
Nikki Haley (Incumbent, Republican)
Gov. Nikki Haley's campaign team did not respond to requests for an interview.
Morgan Bruce Reeves (United Citizens)
Morgan Bruce Reeves, a Winnsboro resident and owner of a construction company, says he is the only gubernatorial candidate looking out for the interests of black South Carolinians. "Vincent Sheheen is not interested in the African-American community and their education," Reeves says. "He's using African Americans; he's using them against me."
If elected, Reeves has big plans for the governor's office.
"Everybody-that's-working-in-South-Carolina's pay would be doubled under my administration, but here's the catch: anybody working in South Carolina that would invest in my political campaign plan," Reeves says.
Reeves' plan starts with the legalization of marijuana, including recreational use. Then he would open factories around the state to manufacture products made with hemp and marijuana.
"Visualize a big marijuana plastic plant, visualize a big marijuana wax plant, visualize a big marijuana fuel," Reeves says.
By investing in marijuana-based industry, Reeves says South Carolinians can effectively double their income. He does not give a specific dollar amount that must be invested to receive this kind of return on investment, but he says it could become a second retirement plan.
"Rather than have companies raise the pay, I'm going to allow somebody that works at McDonald's or Waffle House to invest in my economic plan," Reeves says.
Reeves says he would also like to build a railroad line connecting Charleston, Columbia, and Charlotte, and run trains on the line fueled by sewage. He says the railroad line would also be open for public investment.
Reeves says he has served as senior pastor of eight different churches, but when asked to name the churches, he says, "I'd rather not say ... because church and state, you know, are sort of separate." If elected, he says he would give money to churches to help fund after-school and preschool programs.
"Write this down: I'll give money to a church if they've got a good preacher," Reeves says. "I'm not talking about no preacher that goes around riding with three or four big Cadillacs and a Mercedes-Benz. That church is not getting no money."
Vincent Sheheen (Democratic)
According to state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the problem with South Carolina's education system has a lot to do with taxes. For starters, if elected, he says he would abolish local property taxes for school operating expenses and replace them with a statewide property tax.
"The state constitution says that South Carolina shall provide a free public education. It does not say that Dillon County must," Sheheen says. "The result of the state shirking its duty and dumping it on the county is that counties that don't have high levels of commercial property can't fund their schools."
Part of the problem with education funding, he says, is Act 388, a 2006 law that eliminated homeowners' property taxes as a funding stream for schools and replaced them with a statewide sales tax increase. Shortfalls in the sales tax during the Great Recession have led to perennial difficulties in funding schools statewide, and Sheheen says he would seek to ensure that schools are funded with "a diverse funding stream" that could possibly include the statewide property tax and an increase in the cigarette tax.
Sheheen says he would also seek to increase teachers' pay and would push to expand four-year-old kindergarten to every school district in the state.
On environmental matters, Sheheen says he would support expanded use of wind and solar energy, and he would create a revolving fund to give homeowners loans for renovations that improve energy efficiency.
Sheheen supports South Carolina's existing right-to-work laws, but he says that, unlike Gov. Haley, he would not actively try to keep unions out of the state. "If Ford Motor Co. wants to bring 2,000 employees here, I welcome them," Sheheen says. "Their relationship with their employees is their business."
He says he would continue to use economic incentives to lure employers from out of state, but he would also create a Division of Entrepreneurship and Small Business within the S.C. Department of Commerce to help what he calls "the real engine of growth in the state."
On the topic of marriage equality, Sheheen has said that he does not support extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, but he says he would issue an executive order protecting workers from being fired based on sexual orientation. And when it comes to South Carolina's same-sex marriage ban, which currently faces a challenge in court, Sheheen says he would wait to see how a judge rules on the law's constitutionality.
"I would advocate that we need to quit spending money litigating it, and we need to accept whatever decision the court makes," Sheheen says.