COLUMBIA, S.C. — Former South Carolina Treasurer Thomas Ravenel submitted about 16,500 signatures to the state Election Commission on Monday as he attempts to run as an independent for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Lindsey Graham. Here are five things about Ravenel, his life, his chances to win and the process of getting on the ballot as a petition candidate.
WHO IS THOMAS RAVENEL?
Thomas Ravenel is a 51-year-old millionaire developer from a famous South Carolina political family. His father is Arthur Ravenel, who over six decades in state politics was a member of the state Senate, the state House and Congress. He also ran for governor and is the namesake of the $632 million Ravenel Bridge that connects Charleston to Mount Pleasant.
Thomas Ravenel stayed out of politics until 2004, when he ran for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Ernest "Fritz" Hollings. Ravenel ran a savvy, mainly television driven campaign, spending $2.7 million of his own money and finishing third, just 4,400 votes behind second-place finisher Jim DeMint. DeMint would go on to win the nomination in a runoff, then the general election.
In 2006, he received 52 percent of the vote to become state treasurer, beating out Democratic incumbent Grady Patterson who was seeking a 10th term.
Ravenel is a graduate of The Citadel and made millions with his commercial development firm that concentrated on building grocery and retail stores.
Ravenel had only been in the Treasurer's Office for six months before he was indicted in June 2007 on a drug charge. Federal prosecutors said he bought cocaine for himself and his friends. Ravenel pleaded guilty and served 10 months in prison.
In July 2013, Ravenel was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in the Hamptons in New York. He pleaded guilty in March and had his driver's license suspended for six months.
Ravenel's politics have always had a libertarian bent to them, and the personal freedom and smaller government message has become more pronounced since his time in prison.
In 2012, Ravenel sent an email supporting Republican Ron Paul for president. He said he was a victim of the federal government's war on drugs and said the government has become a threat to America's founding principles of individual liberty and prosperity.
After turning in his signatures Monday, Ravenel repurposed President John Kennedy's famous inaugural address quote. "Ask not what our government can do for us, but what we can do for ourselves," Ravenel said.
Ravenel has been criticizing Graham since before Ravenel ran for state treasurer, and friends were encouraging him before his arrest to consider challenging the senator who was first elected in 2002.
The Associated Press reviewed Ravenel's state email account after his cocaine arrest. It was full of notes from people wanting him to challenge Graham in the 2008 Republican primary.
CAN HE WIN?
Winthrop University Political Scientist Scott Huffmon said Ravenel has virtually no chance to win because South Carolina is a partisan state that likes to vote straight ticket.
In the 2012 general election, about half of all voters pressed the button to vote either all Democratic or Republican candidates.
"There are some people who might complain about Lindsey Graham in public, but when they get to the privacy of the voting booth, they won't pull that handle for Ravenel because they don't want to make their party look weak," Huffmon said.
GETTING ON THE BALLOT
Just turning in the signatures isn't enough to get Ravenel on the ballot. State Election Commission officials counted 16,469 signatures from Ravenel, which he said came from each of the state's 46 counties. He only needs 10,000 to get on the ballot.
State law requires county election offices to confirm the each of the first 500 signatures submitted against the signature on the voter's local registration, said Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.
After that, election officials will check one signature out of each block of 10, then apply the rate of confirmed signatures to the rest of the total, Whitmire said.
Once Ravenel reaches 10,000 signatures, he is on the ballot. If he fails to make it to 10,000, state law requires that each signature then be checked individually.
The Election Commission has until Aug. 15 to finish the process, Whitmire said.