South Carolina

SC politics: Atwater won’t debate again before GOP primary

Atwater won’t debate before GOP runoff

One of the two Republicans still vying for the GOP's nomination for superintendent of education has declined an invitation to debate before the June 24 runoff.

Sally Atwater of Charleston turned down the second debate – hosted by ETV and seven newspapers, including The State – because she already has debated once, said spokesman Luke Byars. The debate she appeared on was before the June 10 primary, when eight Republicans were vying for the nomination.

Molly Spearman of Saluda accepted the debate invitation, her campaign said. Spearman received the most votes in the primary, narrowly outpolling Atwater by 64,758 votes to 63,387.

Byars added the “vast majority of Republicans all over the state” have seen Atwater at local GOP forums.

Spearman’s campaign said Atwater's refusal to debate was political.

“We hope Ms. Atwater changes her mind, spokesman Ryan Lambert said. “But given her debate performance in the primary and her recent radio interview on WORD-FM, we can understand why she has made this political calculation.”

• You can hear that interview online with this story at


Ervin submits ballot signatures, calls for debates

Cue the second take.

Tom Ervin, the Greenville lawyer and former legislator and judge running for governor, planned to dropped off ballot petitions with 20,137 signatures last Monday. But the folks at the S.C. Election Commission office told him they were busy with Tuesday’s primary and asked he return later.

So Ervin, a self-described “independent Republican,” submitted the signatures Monday to get on the ballot in the November gubernatorial election.

He needs 10,000 valid signatures to join the race pitting Republican incumbent Nikki Haley, Democrat Vincent Sheheen, Libertarian Steve French and United Citizens candidate Morgan Bruce Reeves.

Ervin then called for monthly debates between the candidates across the state, starting in July.

“I will be sending a letter to Governor Haley and Senator Sheheen proposing a monthly debate schedule for the duration of the campaign,” Ervin said. “So that we can avoid lengthy debate negotiations by their consultants, let’s keep it simple: no fancy rules, no need for a moderator. Just arrive at an agreed upon date and location and the three of us can debate a single topic for 60 minutes.”

Sheheen’s camp said they would be happy to discuss debates with Ervin and other candidates. Haley’s campaign did not respond immediately for comment.

Governor’s schedule, activities

Gov. Nikki Haley’s publicly announced schedule for the rest of this week, released by her staff Monday, is:

Tuesday, 10 a.m. – State Budget and Control Board meeting, State House

Wednesday, 12:30 p.m. – Address the Mount Pleasant Business Association, Mount Pleasant

Thursday, 2:15 p.m. – Attend the Medal of Honor ceremony for Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, White House

Friday, 10:30 a.m. – Tour the Department of Revenue, Columbia

According to her staff, Haley’s activities last week included:

9 – Ceremonial duties, including marking passage of the K-12 education reform initiative, signing the “Read to Succeed” act, joining the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation to announce its Historic Preservation Award winners for 2014, declaring “Vitiligo Awareness Month,” declaring “Great Outdoors Month,” proclaiming “Transverse Myelitis Awareness Day,” a photo opportunity with Young Miss Teen Lexington County and Miss Teen Hilton Head, and a speech at the Palmetto Boys and Girls State inauguration ceremony

6 each – Policy meetings; also, economic-development activities, two phone calls and grand openings, groundbreakings and ribbon-cuttong ceremonies, respectively, for Red Ventures in Fort Mill, GE Power and Water in Greenville, and Koyo Bearings in Blythewood, plus a tour of Tides Enterprises in Charleston

2 each – Budget meetings; also, media availabilities, with U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and to announce her budget vetoes

1 each – Constituent meeting, call concerning a state agency and legislative meeting; also, voting in last Tuesday’s primary

Busiest day – Wednesday, with 13 activities

Slowest days – Monday and Thursday, with three activities each

Staff Writers Cassie Cope and Andrew Shain contributed.