Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen considering rematch with Nikki Haley

Paul Conner Executive Editor
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Democratic South Carolina state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who lost to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley in 2010, is considering challenging Haley once again in 2014.

In a year when tea-party-minded voters swept Republicans into office in all but one U.S. congressional district in the state, Sheheen fell to Haley by just four points. Sheheen emailed supporters Thursday morning with a link to a story from The State newspaper showing Sheheen leading Haley by two percentage points in a potential rematch, and asked for donations to his state Senate campaign.

“I’m certainly weighing my options and talking to people,” Sheheen told The Daily Caller. “I’m kinda taking a break over the Christmas holiday after today and talking with my family about what the future holds. I think I have a few months before I really have to decide what the future holds.”

“The main thing, honestly, is whether it is the right time personally, the right time for the family, and then what I can bring to the table as far as changing the way the state operates,” he said. “Those are the things I have to consider.”

A recent Public Policy Polling poll showed Sheheen ahead 46 percent to 44 percent, within the poll’s 4.3-percent margin of error. Another recent poll, from Winthrop University, showed Haley with a lower approval rating in South Carolina than President Barack Obama.

The Democratic Governors Associated invited Sheheen to its annual meetings last week in Los Angeles. In 2010, state Democratic chairman Dick Harpootlian blasted the DGA for not doing more to back Sheheen.

“The South Carolina Democratic Party thinks he would be a great candidate,” the party’s executive director Amanda Loveday told TheDC. “He showed that he could do it in 2010. It was the second closest governor’s race in the country in a horrible Democratic year, so for a southern state to be No. 2 on that list shows that people liked him here, and Nikki Haley has continued to show people in South Carolina a little bit of buyer’s remorse.”

Loveday said that “a handful of names” have come up as potential Democratic candidates and that if there is a Democratic primary, the party will stay out of the race. “It’s really early. That why you have to be careful of poll numbers this early out,” she said.

Sheheen works as a lawyer in his hometown of Camden, S.C., in addition to his duties as a state senator, an office he has held since his election in 2004.

“Certainly I look back at what happened in 2010, and it was very encouraging but it was not successful, and I look at the lay of the land now, and there’s a lot of disappointment with our government, a lot of dysfunction in South Carolina, and a lot of disappointing results for the last few years,” he said. “So that all goes into making up your mind, but the good news is that we’re far away from an election.”

He criticized the Haley administration for a lack of transparency and a “general lack of attention to state government.” He cited the recent cyberattack in which foreign hackers accessed the personal information of nearly four million people through the state Department of Revenue as one example of dysfunction.

Haley’s former chief of staff Tim Pearson said he welcomes the possible challenge.

“Vince Sheheen has been doing nothing but running for governor for the last four years — while Nikki Haley was actually governing,” said Pearson, who is now a campaign spokesman for Haley. “When it comes time for us to re-enter the political ring with him, the results will be just as bad for Vince as they were last time.”

Pearson also downplayed the recent polling results.

“Gov. Haley has had the toughest two month stretch of her governorship as a result of this major international criminal hacking,” he said. “Looking at the politics of it, if Vince Sheheen can only pull about even with her when she’s in the middle of that, then his chances are hopeless once she gets the message out about her record breaking economic development achievements and about Sheheen’s big government trial lawyer agenda.”

With Sen. Jim DeMint’s retirement, 2014 is shaping up to be a massive election in South Carolina. Demint’s replacement would have to run for re-election in 2014, and Sen. Lindsey Graham is also up for re-election that year.

“I’ll keep you posted!” Sheheen wrote in the email to supporters.

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