S.C. Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Democratic gubernatorial candidate, focused on what he sees as Gov. Nikki Haley’s failures in leadership during a campaign stop Saturday in Rock Hill.
Among those failures, Sheheen said, are withholding funding from schools, forgoing federal Medicaid dollars and failing to make vital infrastructure improvements.
Sheheen was among several Democratic candidates campaigning Saturday at the Freedom Temple Ministries on Main Street at an event organized by the York County Democrats.
“Are you ready to change South Carolina?” Sheheen asked. The 40 or so in attendance clapped and cheered.
Sheheen said that Haley has vetoed funding for public education “year after year,” and vetoed salary raises for teachers while giving her own staff a 25 percent pay increase.
In January, Haley included about $180 million in education proposals in her executive budget, saying her plan was the first step in a multi-year commitment to public education. The budget passed by the Legislature in June funded Haley’s plan.
However, from 2011-13, Haley vetoed $110 million in public education spending, including $95 million in her first year in office.
“That is not honest leadership, that’s politics and together, we’re changing it in two months,” Sheheen said.
He called Haley’s refusal to accept $15.8 billion in Medicaid funds that would have come with an expanded program “just stupid.” Sheheen said accepting the program’s expansion would have created 44,000 new jobs and accepting them would be “doing what’s right.”
The expansion of the program could have served as many as 340,000 South Carolina residents, according to some estimates.
While South Carolina isn’t accepting federal money to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, the program is growing.
Membership grew from 1.02 million South Carolina residents in fiscal year 2011 to 1.15 million during the 2013 fiscal year.
State Medicaid Director Tony Keck estimates that number will continue to increase as an estimated 200,000 people who are eligible under current rules but not enrolled for a variety of reasons sign up for Medicaid cards.
Sheheen and other party organizers encouraged people to get others to vote or donate time or money to Democratic campaigns.
Lake Wylie residents Bobbie Otto and Larry Marraccini said they are actively working to get people to register and to vote. They’re knocking on doors and making phone calls to get out the vote because the support is there, Otto said, they just have to show up at the polls.
“If we get out the vote, there’s no doubt we’ll win,” Marraccini said.
Larry Revels and Doug Huffstetler said they’ve been knocking on doors for months to register people to vote and encourage them to vote. They said they have the hardest time getting young black men to register.
“We’ve had enough young black men turn us down to turn any election in York County,” Huffstetler said.
Even though he already knows he’s going to be voting for Democratic candidates, Revels said he comes to campaign events like this one to show his support. He said he votes for Democratic candidates because he supports the Affordable Care Act and believes the wealthiest Americans aren’t paying their fair share of taxes.
Democrats across the state have less than 60 days to find the support needed for Sheheen to beat Haley. The 2014 election is a rematch of the 2010 race where Haley won by almost 4.5 percentage points.