Upstate South Carolina businessman John Warren – the Marine captain who nearly knocked off incumbent governor Henry McMaster in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary election – is getting involved in what should be a competitive race for the Palmetto State Senate.
One of many, potentially …
Warren’s newly formed political group – South Carolina’s Conservative Future – is endorsing the candidacy of GOP nominee Penry Gustafson in her bid against incumbent Democrat Vincent Sheheen.
Gustafson originally planned to run in a GOP primary against retired U.S. Army helicopter pilot Vic Dabney for the GOP nomination for S.C. House District 52 (.pdf). However, on the last day of the 2020 filing period she switched gears and submitted paperwork to run for S.C. Senate District 27 (.pdf).
Sheheen – an attorney from Camden, S.C. – has represented this district since February 2004. Prior to that, he spent three years in the S.C. House of Representatives. He also ran unsuccessfully against Nikki Haley for governor of South Carolina in 2010 and again in 2014.
Sheheen (whose ads are appearing on this news outlet) ran unopposed for reelection in 2008, 2012 and 2016 – even though the district he represents has been trending increasingly red in recent election cycles.
In 2012, former GOP nominee Mitt Romney captured 54.9 percent of the vote within its borders. Four years ago, U.S. president Donald Trump got 58.9 percent of the vote.
In other words, this is a seat Republicans should win easily … but so far Senate majority leader Shane Massey and the new political action committee ostensibly affiliated with his caucus have not lifted a finger to help Gustafson.
“(He) has refused to give both of them money,” one GOP insider told us, referring to Gustafson and staunch social conservative Chris Smith – who is running against Democrat Nikki Setzler in the race for S.C. Senate District 26 (.pdf).
That is another district the GOP should be running away with …
(Click to view)
(Via: Penry Gustafson for Senate)
Gustafson (above) is a small businesswoman and community activist. While she was not the first choice for Republicans eager to take back this seat, Warren’s support of her candidacy is likely to provide her prospects with a tremendous boost – particularly if it is accompanied by financial support.
According to Warren, Gustafson “is committed to holding government accountable” while Sheheen “made $10.2 million off of Santee Cooper.”
Warren is referring to a hugely controversial ratepayer settlement negotiated by the beleaguered government-run utility – which has racked up billions of dollars in debt in connection with NukeGate, the botched construction of a pair of since-abandoned nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C.
We blasted that settlement as “astoundingly unfair … and uniquely damaging to Santee Cooper ratepayers.”
Meanwhile the command economic debacle that precipitated it stands as the definitional failure of government intervention in the free market.
Lawmakers bear directly responsibility for that failure, too, incidentally …
“Senators making millions off the taxpayers is wrong,” Warren noted in referring to the settlement.
In fairness, Sheheen did recuse himself from voting on matters related to Santee Cooper during the lawsuit.
Palmetto State Republicans had hoped to recruit former S.C. Department of Revenue (SCDOR) director Rick Reames to challenge Sheheen. Unfortunately for them, the Camden, S.C. attorney – whose principled advocacy on behalf of taxpayers as revenue chief drew frequent praise from this news outlet – declined to run, choosing to focus on his family and his practice.
According to our sources, Massey aggressively recruited Reames to run and “lost interest” in the race when he declined to be a candidate.
As for Warren, his group has made it clear it is very interested in forging a more conservative GOP majority in Columbia, S.C. by supporting “Republicans who are conservative, capable and courageous – strong leaders who value all life – born and unborn.”
“As a conservative Republican, I say this – the only party to really blame for stagnation is the Republican Party in South Carolina,” Warren said in announcing the formation of his group earlier this year.
Warren gets no argument from us on that count …
Republicans have controlled the S.C. House of Representatives since 1994, the S.C. Senate since 2001 and have controlled the governor’s office since 2003. During that time, however, they have overseen the rampant growth of state government – with little to show for it but steadily deteriorating outcomes on multiple fronts.
No wonder a recent report ranked South Carolina’s “Republican-controlled” General Assembly as the most liberal GOP legislature in America.
We are pleased to see Warren engaging in races like this where the Republican establishment has clearly failed to do its job. We hope this is a sign of things to come for his organization, and we were very encouraged to hear Warren recently tell a group of GOP donors that he planned on engaging in primary elections during future election cycles.
At this point it should be abundantly clear that South Carolina desperately needs lawmakers committed to new ideas as opposed to the failed status quo …
And people like Warren who are committed to helping them get elected.
UPDATE: Apparently not everyone was impressed with Warren’s efforts on behalf of Gustafson. Shortly after our column published, we received the following quote from Wesley Donehue, a consultant to the S.C. Senate Republican Caucus.
“The help in these races is great. I just wish it were not all cookie cutter crap. A little effort would be nice.”
Donehue went on to refer to the mail pieces from Warren’s organization as “crap mail.”
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