Republican gubernatorial hopefuls make their cases to Beaufort group

About 150 members of the S.C. Federation of Republican Women got an up-close and personal look Saturday night at the most of the Republican field for next year's race for governor.

S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster, State Rep. Nikki Haley, State Sen. Larry Grooms and U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett posed for pictures and made 10-minute stump speeches at the group's awards banquet Saturday night at the Holiday Inn on Boundary Street in Beaufort.

All four candidates have announced their intention to seek the party's nomination in the state's 2010 gubernatorial election. To secure the nomination, the candidates will need to win the party's primary election on June 8.

Barrett, who represents South Carolina's 3rd Congressional District, devoted much of his 10 minutes to telling the group his plans to encourage economic development, improve education and create jobs.

"If we're going to change this nation, we need to do it one state at a time," Barrett said. "We need a plan for South Carolina. In our first 90 days in office, we will take South Carolina to where she's never been before."

Grooms, who represents a senate district that includes parts of Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Dorchester counties, said the state needed a governor who will advocate fiscal responsibility.

"The more I learn about politics the more I learn that we're in trouble," Grooms said. "We have traded principle for comfort. We've decided that we're going to govern for today. It's time that we stood up and said enough is enough. This election is the most critical our state and our nation has ever faced."

Haley turned her attention toward government transparency, advocating term limits and income disclosure for all state legislators.

"I make $10,000 a year," said Haley, who representing Lexington County in the Statehouse. "You deserve to know who else is paying me."

Running against two state legislators and one Congressman, McMaster touted his executive experience as the thing that sets him apart from the field.

"I've been in the executive arena and I happen to think that experience counts," he said. "I will lead our state on the path to prosperity. We have all the assets we need."

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is also expected to run for the post.

The group will not official endorse a candidate but instead throw its support behind the winner of June's primary, said Mary McAbee, the group's president.