State Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden, the presumptive Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, Saturday joined calls for Gov. Nikki Haley to dismiss a co-chair of her grass-roots re-election campaign. That volunteer has ties to a white-supremacist group, civil rights groups say.
Haley’s campaign responded that Sheheen is in no position to criticize Republican Haley, charging him with previously “condoning racial attacks on South Carolina’s first minority governor.”
Sheheen said Haley has had “plenty of time” to reconsider her initial decision not to dismiss Roan Garcia-Quintana of Mauldin, one of 164 co-chairs appointed in February to Haley’s grass-roots steering committee.
“Nikki Haley’s appointment of a white supremacist to her re-election steering committee and refusal to renounce his beliefs is deeply disturbing,” Sheheen’s campaign said in a statement issued Saturday. “The racist beliefs and harmful rhetoric that Governor Haley is standing by have no place in our politics, are offensive to South Carolinians and once again damage the reputation of our great state. We deserve so much better from our elected leaders.”
The Haley camp said Sheheen is being “extremely political or extremely arrogant.”
“Vince Sheheen was silent when one of his advisors, Phil Bailey, racially slurred the governor, so silent in fact that Bailey still works for him,” Tim Pearson, a Haley political advisor, said in a statement. “Vince was silent when his Democrat Party chairman attacked the governor, first for being a minority and then for being a woman. So given his unblemished record of condoning racial attacks on South Carolina’s first minority governor, Sheheen’s decision to chime in here is either extremely political or extremely arrogant – or maybe it’s a bit of both.”
Bailey, who is political director of the state Senate’s Democratic Caucus, last year called Haley a “Sikh Jesus.” He subsequently apologized for the comment as a joke made in poor taste.
Dick Harpootlian, former chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, also drew GOP cries of racism for telling a recent Democratic event that he hoped S.C. voters would send “Nikki Haley back to wherever the hell she came from.” Republicans said Harpootlian was referring to Haley’s Indian-American heritage.
Harpootlian later said he meant Haley should go back to “Lexington County,” which she formerly represented in the S.C. House, and “being an accountant in a dress store,” once owned by her parents.
Garcia-Quintana is a board member of the Council of Conservative Citizens, which opposes “all efforts to mix the races” and thinks “the American people and government should remain European in their composition and character,” according to its website.
In an interview Thursday, Garcia-Quintana denied that he or the council are racist, asking if it is racist “to be proud of your own heritage” or “to want to keep your own heritage pure.”
Haley has not officially announced her re-election campaign yet, but she is expected to run against Sheheen, who she defeated by less than 5 percentage points in 2010.