South Carolina

S.C. politics: Graham opponent raises more than $417,000 in two months

Graham opponent raises more than $417,000 in two months

Columbia pastor Det Bowers has raised more than $417,000, mostly from S.C. donors, since entering the race for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate in February, his campaign said Tuesday.

One of six Republican challengers competing in June’s GOP primary for the seat now held by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, Bowers has $384,000 on hand.

Bowers’ two-month fundraising push surpassed the amount that Graham’s other challengers individually reported raising in previous fundraising quarters.

Charleston PR executive Nancy Mace, who had been the most successful fundraiser opposing Graham, said she had raised more than $400,000 at the end of January after campaigning for about five months. But with fundraising reports for federal candidates not due until next week, it is unclear how Bowers and his competitors stack up.

They face a well-funded incumbent in Graham, who had $7.6 million to spend at the end of 2013.

Group suing over county election boards law

A government watchdog group has filed a legal challenge to the constitutionality of the elections process in South Carolina, a move one top lawmaker says could complicate this year’s races if the issue isn’t decided quickly.

Last month, the South Carolina Public Interest Foundation filed a request that a judge declare invalid a state law laying out how county-level elections boards are constructed. The lawsuit, filed in Richland County, says that a 2008 law on combined county election commissions and boards of voter registration is unconstitutional.

State Sen. Larry Martin, chairman of the Senate’s Judiciary Committee, has warned that such a lawsuit could make a mess out of this year’s elections. The Pickens Republican is urging his colleagues to pass his bill, which would create a statewide model for combined election and voter registration offices.

Martin’s bill was a reaction to a court ruling that a 2011 law merging Richland County’s election and voter registration boards violated the state Constitution’s prohibition against single-county legislation.

If the Senate doesn’t send Martin’s bill to the House before May 1, its chance for passage is slim. But Martin said his bill could move forward in the Senate this week.

South Carolina’s primary elections are June 10, with a runoff June 24 if required. The general election is Nov. 4.

Senate approves bill to give libraries legal muscle to ban patrons

The S.C. Senate voted 32-6, without debate Tuesday, to approve a bill that would give public libraries legal muscle to ask patrons to leave and stay away.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor for someone to refuse to leave a library if asked by a library’s manager or director, or to return to the library after being warned in writing to stay away. The warning must include the law or library policy the patron is accused of violating, the duration the patron must stay away and the procedure for appealing the ban to the library’s board of trustees. The warning also must be given to the patron in the presence of a law enforcement officer.

The bill must receive a third approval, which is expected, before heading to the House.

The bill’s supporters said while library staff are responsible for keeping those facilities safe, they have a limited ability to keep patrons who are disruptive or make others feel unsafe from returning to libraries – public spaces open to anyone.

Senate passes bill allowing legal bridge games

A bill that would allow retirees to legally play bridge passed the state Senate unanimously Tuesday, two weeks after a senator threatened to challenge South Carolina’s centuries-old anti-gambling laws in court.

Under Sen. Tom Davis’ bill, members of social clubs or groups could gather at someone’s home or community clubhouse to play games with cards, dice or tiles. It names bridge, canasta and mahjong as specific examples. Electronic devices and betting on the games still would be banned.

Previous efforts over the past decade to reform the state’s 1802 anti-gambling law have been blocked over concerns about the re-emergence of video poker or other gambling that might be legalized through any change to the law.

But Davis, R-Beaufort, said his bill was aimed solely at allowing people to socially gather and play games, not gamble.

Davis proposed the bill after police warned a manager at Sun City Hilton Head last May that the bridge and canasta social clubs it advertised for residents violated state law.

Louisiana Gov. Jindal to address S.C. Republicans

Another 2016 White House prospect will speak at the S.C. Republican Party’s Silver Elephant Dinner in June.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal will headline the party’s large annual fundraiser on June 6 – a year after U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and two years after U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida spoke at the event.

The dinner also will honor America’s World War II veterans on the 70th anniversary of D-Day. Tickets start at $75. For $150, people also can attend a pre-event reception with Jindal, and for $500, they can get two dinner tickets, an invite to the reception and a photo with the governor.

S.C. Democrats have U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia headlining their annual Jefferson-Jackson Dinner on May 2.

Kaine, a former governor, is considered a possible vice presidential choice by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton if she runs for president. Vice President Joe Biden, who is considering a 2016 presidential run, spoke at the Democratic fundraiser last year.

Democrats set goal of winning four more S.C. House seats

S.C. Democrats announced a push Tuesday to win four more S.C. House seats, bringing their total up to 50 after the November election. The caucus’ “Fight for 50” campaign will raise money to assist Democratic House candidates across the state.

“Thanks to Gov. Haley and her extremist allies in the Legislature, voters are fed up with the lack of leadership they’ve seen from the Tea Party majority in South Carolina,” said House Minority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland.

Rutherford mentioned some “opportunities for moderate, pragmatic Democrats” to challenge first-term Republican House members, including attorney Joe McCulloch, who lost to Republican Kirkman Finlay by 308 votes in Columbia in 2012.

Republicans hold a 78-46 edge in the House and a 28-18 majority in the S.C. Senate.

Jamie Self, Andrew Shain and The Associated Press contributed