COLUMBIA — State Sen. Vincent Sheheen is spending his summer traveling around South Carolina as he starts to make his case that he should be elected to replace Gov. Nikki Haley in 2014.
Sheheen’s latest stop was Monday at the Columbia Rotary Club, where in a 20-minute speech the Democrat from Camden didn’t say Haley’s name, but said South Carolina’s leaders have failed their constituents over the past 10 years, causing roads to crumble, tax data to be stolen and college costs to skyrocket.
“If we don’t hold them accountable. If we don’t change it up every once in a while, we’ll continue to have the results we’ve had thus far,” Sheheen said. “If you care about South Carolina and want your kids to be successful here you don’t think those results stack up.”
Sheheen announced he would run for governor again in the spring, likely setting up a rematch of the 2010 governor’s race that Haley won with 51 percent of the vote. Haley has not formally announced her re-election bid, but is raising money.
Sheheen is laying the foundation for his 2014 run this summer. This month, he spoke about health care to a senior center in Conway and visited with voters in Aiken, Greenwood and Anderson. He recently spoke about education at schools in Georgetown, Greenville and Beaufort.
Sheheen’s argument to voters is they should be tired of South Carolina being a running joke to the rest of the nation. His speech included slides and maps with statistics that he says shows South Carolina college graduates are more likely to leave the state than their counterparts across the Southeast. He also said it is harder to move up economically in South Carolina than most of the country.
“Business people understand if we are going to move forward, we can’t have a government that is a disaster, that is dysfunctional, that works in secret,” Sheheen said.
If Haley and Sheheen face each other in 2014, each will try to court small business owners like the ones at Monday’s meeting. Haley has touted the reduction in unemployment under her administration and continually promises business owners she will reduce the amount of regulation and cut their taxes.
Haley’s former chief of staff points out Sheheen has been in the Legislature since 2001, about the time the state senator said South Carolina’s leaders became dysfunctional.
“The truth is that under Governor Haley’s leadership, South Carolina has the fastest growing economy on the East Coast and unemployment is at a five-year low. And while that may not be a great thing for Vince Sheheen’s political future, it’s a wonderful thing for the future of our state,” said Tim Pearson, a senior advisor to the governor.
Sheheen said the latest example of the failure of Haley’s administration to lead in the tuberculosis outbreak in Greenwood County. More than 100 people in the county, including more than 50 children, have tested positive for germs associated with the disease. A dozen have developed active tuberculosis.