GOVERNOR’S WANING INFLUENCE FURTHER WEAKENED BY PRIMARY RESULTS
S.C. governor Nikki Haley bet big on establishment “Republican” Marco Rubio during the 2016 “First in the South” presidential primary – and lost big. Now she’s experiencing a similar sinking feeling as it relates to state-level politics …
Haley-backed candidates lost big in a pair of high-profile State Senate races on Tuesday – although the governor did contribute to the defeat of one incumbent State Senator, liberal Wes Hayes of York county, S.C.
Hayes was beaten by former GOP official Wes Climer – knocking him out of the seat he’s held since 1991.
Haley’s top two targets – liberal Senate president Hugh Leatherman and tax-hiking coastal Senator Luke Rankin – easily beat back their Haley-backed primary challengers, though. Leatherman beat former GOP official Richard Skipper by a 54-40 percent margin, while Rankin pummeled his challenger – financial planner Scott Pyle – by a 56-44 percent spread.
Those are surprisingly large margins of victory for incumbents given the prevalent “anti-politician” mood that has swept the state in the aftermath of Donald Trump‘s big presidential win back in February.
Haley’s political action committee – “A Great Day” – dumped big money into both of those races. All for naught.
Leatherman took direct aim at Haley as he basked in the glow of his victory, telling supporters that her last two years in office would not be a “lame duck” session but rather a “dead duck” one.
In fact we expect the diminutive “former” Democrat to begin exacting his revenge once lawmakers return to Columbia, S.C. in a few weeks to address Haley’s vetoes (assuming she bothers to lift her pen this go-round).
Not every State Senate race involving the governor and her financial backers was decided on Tuesday.
A fourth candidate endorsed by Haley – social conservative Reese Boyd of Georgetown county – will face S.C. Rep. Steven Goldfinch in a runoff race for an open State Senate seat. Goldfinch edged Boyd by a 43-41 percent margin in a four-person field, but because neither candidate received a majority of votes in the election they will go head-to-head against each other in two weeks time.
Worth noting? Although she is backing Boyd this go-round, Haley endorsed Goldfinch two years earlier. In other words it’s hard to see her taking much of a victory lap in that contest.
More importantly, as we noted in a pair of previous pieces (here and here) these races were never pure “outsider versus insider” contests. They were battles between one special interest-funded GOP establishment versus another.
And as we’ve noted for several years now, Haley is no reformer.
“On the dollars and cents issues that matter to taxpayers, Haley has been every bit as bad as the lawmakers she’s now opposing,” we wrote earlier this month.