EXCLUSIVE: Sen. Tom Davis will not run for U.S. Senate, governor’s office

Republican State Sen. Tom Davis poses with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the GOP convention this week.
Republican State Sen. Tom Davis poses with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the GOP convention this week.

State Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said today he will not run for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham’s seat or any statewide office in 2014, including governor.

Instead, Davis said he can do more good in the state Senate, where he has recently gained appointment to powerful committees that include the Senate Finance Committee, a force in shaping the state’s budget.

"I'd be lying if I said it wasn’t tempting (to run for Graham’s seat,)" Davis said. "But when you get right down to it and realize you have a limited amount of time, a limited amount of energy, and you sit down and figure out where you can make the most difference, it’s a clear-cut decision. I can make far more of an impact in the (state) Senate."

Davis said he was surprised and thrilled to receive an appointment to the Finance Committee, where he plans to push changes to state formulas for education and road projects — state formulas that, he says, are currently inequitable for Beaufort County.

"Looking at the challenges for my county and the things I’m working on, being on Senate Finance gives me a chance to not just simply (debate the budget on the Senate floor) and talk about changes that need to happen, but to actually make those changes," he said. "If I was going to run against Sen. Graham, I'd have to start now raising money full-time and going around the state. You simply can't do both. Instead, you take care of what's right in front of you."

Speculation has run high since the summer that Davis would seek the Republican nomination for Graham’s seat. During a Tampa rally for then-presidential contender Ron Paul, Davis blasted Graham and called for the defeat of the senior senator.

Davis gave the same reasons for not challenging Gov. Nikki Haley, a Lexington Republican, in the party’s 2014 primary.

But, he said, he has been disappointed in some aspects of Haley’s first term.

"I wish she'd be more aggressive in making us a market-oriented state with less taxes, less regulation and more of a focuses on attracting people here," said Davis, adding Haley has focused too much on luring big companies to the state.

"She has focused too much on big game money which is using incentives to go after big corporations and landing them. Everybody notices them. You have the ribbon cutting. You announce the 200 new jobs," he said. "But it costs money in terms of the incentives, the subsidies -- and you don't see the small businesses that don't come here."

Read more in tomorrow’s The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette, and follow reporter Gina Smith at twitter.com/GinaNSmith.