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REPUBLICAN LAWMAKER: “I’M STAYING PUT”

South Carolina Democrats are working hard to convince anyone who will listen that S.C. Rep. Kirkman Finlay (R-Columbia) has his sights set on higher office.

We’ve heard at least three such rumors this week from different Democratic operatives, including one source who is adamant that Finlay is going to run against incumbent “Republican” Nikki Haley in a GOP primary. Another, more plausible sounding rumor is that Finlay would challenge S.C. Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom – who is struggling to keep up with his duties¬†as well as his always-entertaining personal life.

The third report Democrats are peddling? That Finlay will challenge Haley’s hand-picked lieutenant gubernatorial candidate, Pat McKinney, in the race for the state’s

We spoke with Finlay … and none of the rumors are true.

“I’m staying put,” the first-term House member told us. “I like the House. I’m getting stuff done in the House.”

He’s right …

Finlay has authored six ethics bills that are quickly moving through the state legislature, and his income disclosure provision made it all the way to the State Senate floor before one of “transparency” Gov. Haley’s supporters killed it. He’s also emerged as a reliable free market backer – an emerging force for taxpayers in a GOP caucus that tends to veer wildly to the left on most fiscal issues.

He’s impressed us, in other words …

Accompanying the rumors about Finlay’s statewide ambitions has – not surprisingly – been the political reemergence of trial lawyer Joe McCulloch, who ran against Finlay in 2012.¬†According to our sources, McCulloch has been making noise about running against Finlay again in 2014 – and apparently part of his plan is to fool people into thinking that Finlay isn’t running for reelection.

Interesting …

Finlay’s district is one of the few “swing” districts in South Carolina, where most elections are determined at the primary level due to extensive gerrymandering. Still, even a weak GOP nominee like Mitt Romney easily bested U.S. President Barack Obama in Finlay’s district – earning 57.4 percent of the vote.