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SC Senate Race: Dick Harpootlian Launches Ad Blitz

Democrat blasts television, internet, mail ads in battle for swing Senate district …

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Influential Columbia, South Carolina attorney Dick Harpootlian isn’t playing around in his campaign for the State House …

The Democratic populist with the bottomless bank account and fiery, filterless tongue is sparing no expense in his bid to capture a Midlands, S.C. Senate district that has been trending blue in recent election cycles.

Harpootlian, a former solicitor and two-time chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP), launched his advertising blitz for S.C. Senate District 20 (map) on Monday with a barrage of web advertisements and a television ad.  Sources close to Harpootlian’s campaign tell us he will remain on the airwaves through election day: November 6.

Voters in Richland and Lexington counties have also started to receive mail pieces from Harpootlian, who is running against Republican Benjamin Dunn in next month’s special election.

Dunn and Harpootlian are vying for a seat vacated by former state senator John Courson, a fiscally liberal Republican from Columbia.  Courson pleaded guilty in June to a misconduct in office charge related to #ProbeGate, a lengthy investigation into corruption in state government that appears to be winding down.  Or … maybe not.

Courson’s resignation on June 4 after more than three decades in office triggered this special election – which saw the leading GOP candidate bow out rather than take on Harpootlian.

What prompted that decision?  Among other things, fear of precisely the sort of well-funded offensive Harpootlian unleashed on Monday … including a slick thirty-second television spot starring Richland County, S.C. sheriff Leon Lott, one of the most popular elected officials in the Midlands.

“When Dick Harpootlian sees a problem, he gets to work,” Lott said in the spot.  “As our solicitor, he prosecuted corrupt politicians and fought violent crime.  And he will always fight for us.  He will never stand down.”

“I live in Senate District 20,” Lott says.  “And I’d be proud to call Dick Harpootlian my senator.”

Take a look …

(Click to view)

(Via: Harpootlian for Senate)

While Harpootlian is flush with cash, Republicans have struggled to raise money – or build enthusiasm for Dunn’s candidacy.

As we noted last month, S.C. Senate majority leader Shane Massey has spent the last few weeks trying to whip up $100,000 for Dunn – including hosting a fundraiser this Tuesday at the swanky Palmetto Club in downtown Columbia.

Sources close to the majority leader tell us the GOP will be “financially competitive” in this race, although that remains to be seen.

Massey’s efforts have been complicated by the fact that GOP senators – all of whom are facing reelection in 2020 – don’t want to waste money on a district that many of them believe is un-winnable.  Not only that, several Republican senators we have spoken with privately believe having Harpootlian in their chamber would tie the minority party “in knots.”

“They don’t know how to handle Dick Harpootlian any better than we do,” one GOP senator told us last month.

Several Republican senators who were encouraged to show their support for Dunn publicly have complained privately to us about his work ethic (or lack thereof) on the campaign trail.

“If there is a fire in his belly – it is well hidden,” one GOP lawmaker told us.

These concerns were amplified last month when a pair of polls – one Democratic, one Republican – showed Harpootlian with an early double-digit advantage over Dunn, who is going to have to spend significant sums of money to boost his name identification with likely voters.

S.C. Senate District 20 includes parts of Lexington and Richland counties. It very nearly went for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in 2016, and if there is anything resembling a blue wave this November we believe Harpootlian is a virtual lock to win the seat.  Also, his advantage should be further bolstered given that former S.C. House minority leader James Smith – whose House district lies in the middle of this Senate district – is running at the top of the Democratic statewide ticket.

Democrats in Richland County turned out in droves for Smith in this June’s partisan primary elections, and we suspect they will flock to the polls for him again in November.

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