LADSON — The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce on Thursday endorsed Republican Gov. Nikki Haley for re-election, a reversal from four years ago which the group representing 18,000 businesses endorsed her Democratic opponent.
In 2010, the business association endorsed Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who is again facing Haley in this year’s gubernatorial race.
Haley joined business leaders who announced the endorsement during stops in Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Ladson and Columbia. The chamber said that is endorsing Haley because she has made job creation and economic development her top priorities.
During her appearance in Ladson, near Charleston, Haley noted more people are working in South Carolina today than at any time in history. She added that when she took office, unemployment was at 11.1 percent and now has dropped to 5.3 percent.
Later, when asked what had changed since the Chamber endorsed Sheheen, the governor told reporters, “Nothing changed for me. I knew I had to prove them wrong. I had to prove what I knew we were capable of. The state had to see what we were capable of. So it was not about anything more than me going and doing my job.”
Mike Brenan, president of BB&T Bank in South Carolina and past chairman of the chamber, issued the endorsement of Haley in Ladson.
“Four years ago, we didn’t have a clue as to what sort of governor Gov. Haley was going to be,” Brenan told reporters. “In the past four years she has set a whole new standard for job creation, economic growth and prosperity, so this decision was the right decision to make this time.”
Haley was a state representative when she ran for governor in 2010.
The endorsement of Sheheen marked the first time the chamber had endorsed a candidate in the gubernatorial race.
“Obviously we think we made the wrong decision then, but we think we have made the right decision – we know we have made the right decision – this time,” Brenan added.
Sheheen responded in a news release that the announcement by the chamber “is not surprising.”
He added that the announcement “continues an unfortunate trend in their decision-making that favors big, out-of-state corporations at the expense of South Carolina’s small businesses. While we must always continue to compete for new projects, if we ignore our own small businesses we will never be truly economically successful.”
The chamber said that 90 percent of its members are small businesses.