GOP challenger Tom Ervin calls Gov. Nikki Haley ‘deceitful’

Former state Rep. and judge Tom Ervin, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, said Tuesday that he offers leadership in the state lacking under Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.

"Our governor has been deceitful. She’s been hypocritical," he said during a news conference in Columbia. "She’s lied to us about so many things."

He argued Haley cannot oppose the Common Core education standards because she signed a memo bringing them into the state and was not truthful about supporting expansion of a Georgia port over aiding the Port of Charleston.

After his surprise filing Saturday, Ervin is self-financing his run at first. Ervin said he has cashed out his 401(k) and IRA to pay for the race and put $108,000 into his coffers. He said he’s looking for donors.

"I know I’m an underdog," he said. "All the experts say we don’t have a chance. Wait and see, we’re going to fight for every vote on June 10."

Ervin, 62, said he asked others to run, including Attorney General Alan Wilson. When no one wanted to challenge Haley, he entered the race. He is the only Republican challenging Haley, 42.

The tipping point was the testimony at Senate hearings this year on mismanagement charges at the S.C. Department of Social Services. Coroners, social workers and former department employees testified that managers at the cabinet agency return children to unsafe homes and under report abuse claims in their quest to meet goals.

Ervin said he prosecuted child-abuse cases early in his law career.

If elected, Ervin said he would take care of children but did not offer specifics. He wants laws passed requiring interlock devices for people convicted of drunk driving and a statewide ban on texting while driving.

He said Haley has no plans to fix roads. "I’ve got some news for her, money doesn’t grow on trees," he said referring to her term for budget surpluses, which she calls the "money tree."

On fixing roads, Ervin said he was not endorsing a state gas tax increase, but the state should not overlook that a good portion of fuel taxes are paid from out-of-state motorists.

He also does not support the sweeping federal health-care plan but said he would not veto a Medicaid expansion if the state balanced the budget. Ervin said he expects Congress will repeal the program anyway.

Ervin is trying to return to government service.

He was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1979 two years after graduating from the University of South Carolina law school. He served for four years in the General Assembly. After leaving the legislature, Ervin spent two years as a commissioner on the S.C. Workers’ Compensation Commission and 14 years as a circuit court judge.

"My life experience has prepared me for this job," he said.

Ervin was a Democrat before switching to the Republican Party to run in the 2005 special election to succeed House Speaker David Wilkins, who had been named the U.S. Ambassador to Canada. Bruce Bannister, now the majority House leader, won the seat.

Ervin has said he became a Republican because he’s pro-life and a born-again Christian.

He practices law with his wife, Kathryn Williams, in Greenville. He concentrates on Social Security disability benefits cases. He also bought three radio stations in Anderson last year.

He has donated to GOP candidates, but his wife has contributed to candidates in both parties including $4,500 to Vincent Sheheen’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign, according to state records. Sheheen, who lost to Haley four years ago, has no primary opponent in his race for governor this year.

Williams also contributed $50,000 to the S.C. Democratic Party in 2010.

"She has her own mind," Ervin said. "I’ve learned to respect that about her. I don’t always agree with her."

Williams, who backed her husband decision to run, said that with her contributions she tries to support "candidates who I think will best represent the interests of South Carolina.

Ervin said he voted for no one for governor in the 2010 election. Williams said she thought she wrote-in a candidate.

Haley’s camp suggested Ervin might be running in the wrong primary.

"We appreciate Mr. Ervin’s desire for public service, but a trial lawyer and former Democratic lawmaker, who wants to raise taxes and embrace Obamacare, should probably be running in the Democrat primary," Haley campaign Rob Godfrey said. "Gov. Haley is focused on the legislative session, passing historic education and ethics reforms, and keeping the fantastic economic and jobs momentum going."