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#SC2018: James Smith’s Campaign Ramps Up

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Former South Carolina minority leader James Smith is ramping up his gubernatorial campaign after a better-than-expected fundraising performance during the fourth quarter of 2017.

The former Afghan War hero is bringing in several highly regarding national operatives to take over key positions within his organization this month, he told us this week.

“Will be announcing (the) new team soon,” Smith said.

Leaving the campaign are Cory Alpert and Isaiah Nelson, who guided Smith through his launch and early fundraising/ grassroots efforts.

“I’m very proud of what our team accomplished in the time since we got into this race,” Smith said.  “From an incredible launch event to a great fundraising quarter, I know we are heading into 2018 with a strong chance to win and thank Isaiah and Cory for the leadership they provided to get us here. I wish both of them the best in everything they pursue and know they will see much success in their next adventure.”

Rumors of Alpert and Nelson’s departure began circulating through political channels in the capital city of Columbia, S.C. early Tuesday.  Several Democratic activists reached out to us indicating the moves were a sign of trouble within the Smith camp.

One cited “dysfunction.”  Another claimed there was a “lack of cohesion” within the organization.

Sources close to Smith’s campaign told us those rumors were “totally false” and that the campaign is simply availing itself of support from national Democrats encouraged by its fourth quarter fundraising haul of nearly $550,000.

Also, one of the departing staffers offered a quote in support of Smith’s candidacy.

“I was honored to be a part of this campaign and to help lead the team to success since James got in the race,” Nelson said.  “As I explore other opportunities, I know the campaign is going to be in great hands and great things are to come.”

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Guess we’ll find out which end is “up” sooner rather than later …

Smith has represented S.C. House district 72 (map) for the past two decades – including his active duty tour in Afghanistan from February 2007 to May of 2008.  He served as minority leader for four years of his tenure.

The 49-year-old attorney is in a closer-than-expected race with progressive Charleston, S.C. businessman Phil Noble.  In fact, a recent statewide poll from the widely respected Trafalgar Group showed Noble enjoying a narrow lead over Smith.

On the “Republican” side, incumbent governor Henry McMaster is facing (or not facing) a trio of challengers – Lowcountry labor attorney Catherine Templeton, lieutenant governor Kevin Bryant and former lieutenant governor Yancey McGill.  McMaster enjoys a commanding lead over the field, although at this stage of the race he is the only candidate most GOP primary voters have heard of.

Filing for statewide offices in South Carolina doesn’t open until March, with partisan primary races set for June 12.  Whoever wins the “Republican” gubernatorial nod is expected to cruise to victory in November over the Democrat, as the Palmetto State’s perpetual minority party hasn’t won a governor’s race in 20 years and hasn’t won a statewide election in a dozen years.

Can Smith’s new organization pull off a November upset against those kinds of odds?  We shall see … assuming he gets past Noble first.

To keep tabs on our ongoing gubernatorial coverage (and coverage of other statewide races), click on the #SC2018 tag.

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