Gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen and incumbent Congressman John Spratt urged a Democratic Party rally of about 500 cheering supporters Saturday evening to speak with their campaigning and votes as both continue tough races against Republican opponents in November's elections.
Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, spoke for just a few minutes, but he made the point of how his campaign offers stark differences between incumbent Republican Mark Sanford and the Republican challenger who leads Sheheen in the polls, Nikki Haley.
Sheheen said, "I am here to celebrate the future," adding that voters who want to see a change in the image of the governor's office after the Sanford scandals can look to him to provide "something new, something to move us forward."
"Together, we can change this state," Sheheen told the crowd.
Sheheen urged voters to continue to support Spratt, the 28-year incumbent from York who represents the 5th District. Spratt has lived a life of service to his community and state, Sheheen said.
Spratt, in brief remarks, urged the Democrats who gathered for a barbecue supper at the Boyd Hill Recreation Center in Rock Hill to "have the last word" in the battle he, Sheheen and other Democrats have against well-financed, high-profile opponents.
Spratt, who calls himself a bridge-builder and moderate, is facing Republican state senator and fiscal conservative Mick Mulvaney from Indian Land.
The race is considered a toss-up by many national polls and observers, and Spratt told the crowd that Democratic turnout to keep a majority in the Congressional House and Senate is crucial to the nation.
"This is not just another off-year election," Spratt said.
York County Democratic Party Chairman Richards McCrae said the ideologically and racially diverse crowd at Saturday's event, "bodes well for the energy level we need to elect Democrats."
Rally attendee Dave Slenzak said he is a Republican who will vote for Spratt and Sheheen.
Slenzak said Spratt has provided leadership over the years that is different from what Mulvaney can offer and that both Spratt and Sheheen are offering solid ideas instead of conservative jargon.
"This election is a vote for ideas, not sound-bites," Slenzak said.
Longtime York Democrat Eva Love said Spratt remains important to South Carolina and York County, and Sheheen sat down with her Saturday and earned her support.
"He was impressive, attentive, and he showed me that he can be a leader our state needs," Love said.
Democrat Barry Faile of Fort Mill said Spratt's experience and leadership "have served us well in York County and all of South Carolina." Sheheen, Faile said, "is the young and energetic candidate with good ideas who will take this state in a new direction after years of Republicans that led us in the wrong direction."
Other speakers Saturday included Democrats running in national, state and local races:
Incumbent state Rep. Herb Kirsh, facing a challenge from Republican Tommy Pope for House District 47;
John King, running unopposed for re-election in S.C. House District 49;
Holly Cooper, challenging incumbent Republican Gary Simrill for House District 46;
William "Bump" Roddey, facing Republican Thomas Hardin for York County Council District 4;
Mazie Ferguson of Sumter, a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate, who joined the race after the surprise June primary win of Democratic candidate Alvin Greene.
Many Democratic leaders throughout the state have urged Greene, an unemployed military veteran who lives with his father in Manning, to quit the race, but he has continued to run a quirky campaign trying to unseat Republican Sen. Jim DeMint.
Greene did not attend Saturday. He was not invited mainly, because of the pending felony indictment, said McCrae, the county Democratic chairman.