COLUMBIA, SC — Republican Gov. Nikki Haley said Wednesday that state Sen. Vincent Sheheen’s role as a lawyer defending criminals in court raises questions about whether her Democratic opponent in November should become the state’s chief executive.
“It is very concerning when we talk about problems with domestic violence, and you have an attorney that goes and defends those criminals,” said Haley, a Lexington Republican. “When we have problems with all these criminal activities that we are trying to clean up in South Carolina, and ... he’s defended them, it makes you question it.”
Sheheen, a Camden Democrat, has said criminal work makes up a small portion of his Camden law practice, adding it is common for small-town lawyers to represent clients in many different types of cases. A state victims’ advocate leader found no fault with Sheheen’s role as a lawyer, saying it adds to his experience as a public official.
Still, the chairman of the S.C. Republican Party said Democrat Sheheen should not have accepted cases involving charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, criminal domestic violence and resisting arrest. Many of those cases, highlighted by Republicans, were more than a decade old, though one took place in 2011.
“Somebody who wants to be on the international stage, it’s not the kind of thing we want out there,” GOP chairman Matt Moore said Wednesday after a news conference he called about Sheheen’s legal work. “Someone who’s running for governor of this state ought to have better judgment than to represent sex offenders. Period.”
The Sheheen campaign suggested the GOP attention on the Democrat’s legal practice is an attempt to distract from legislative hearings into child deaths related to the S.C. Department of Social Services, a state agency that reports to Haley.
“If Gov. Haley and her S.C. GOP were truly concerned about children’s safety, then she would fire her Social Services director (Lillian Koller) and stop the incompetence that has resulted in children’s deaths across the state,” Sheheen campaign manager Andrew Whalen said.
Efforts to reach Sheheen were unsuccessful Wednesday.