The Democratic nominee for South Carolina governor was back in Rock Hill on Monday to rally students at Winthrop University, little more than a week after his last appearance to address York County Democrats.
State Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden also promised to return as soon as the fall campaign enters the final seven weeks before Election Day.
“York County is a critical area of the state,” Sheheen said, and that’s why he wanted to encourage the few dozen young people who heard him speak at the DiGiorgio Campus Center to vote on Nov. 4 – and get them to get their friends and neighbors to vote to help “close the gap” in his race again Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
“You can help,” he said. “You can make calls, you can knock on doors ... because, I promise you, this is going to be a close election.”
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In 2010, Haley handily defeated Sheheen in York County, taking more than 60 percent of the vote. The vote was closer statewide, with Haley earning 51 percent to Sheheen’s 47 percent.
Getting young people involved is a major goal of his campaign, Sheheen said, because boosting the turnout of a demographic that doesn’t normally vote in large numbers would be a huge benefit to his odds of moving into the governor’s mansion next year. Polls show younger voters favor Sheheen, but getting them registered and ready to vote is a challenge.
“They tend to think their vote can’t make a difference,” Sheheen said after his talk. “I want to show them the state can have leadership that can listen to them.
“Voter turnout is important to all voters because the more people who vote, the more their voices will be heard – and, frankly, the better I do.”
Local Democratic volunteers were on hand to sign up those who hadn’t registered to vote using their Winthrop address, or who weren’t registered at all. If this fall’s election is as tight as when Sheheen challenged Haley four years earlier, when the Republican won by fewer than 60,000 votes, getting people to vote might tip the balance.
“Of those 60,000 votes, 17,000 were in York County,” Amy Hayes, chairwoman of the York County Democratic Party, told the students.
Sheheen also sought to draw a distinction between how he plans to govern and how Haley has run a “secretive” administration.
“We’ve seen all these problems at DSS because Nikki Haley won’t admit there’s a problem,” Sheheen said. “She waited to tell us our information at the Department of Revenue had been hacked, and we still have not seen the final report on what happened.
“The one good thing about having such a terrible four years is that there’s so much we can do.”
Lawmakers have been grilling officials with the state Department of Social Services, which has come under fire since several children died while under DSS supervision. In 2012, the Revenue Department announced that the Social Security numbers of an estimated 3.6 million taxpayers and 387,000 credit card records had been compromised in a cyberattack that has been called the nation’s largest data breach of a state tax agency.
Both agencies fall directly under the governor’s supervision.
Chaney Adams, spokesman for Haley’s campaign, said, “We will know Vince is serious about transparency and accountability when he stops hiding the details of the income he's received as a trial lawyer defending violent criminals, drug dealers, and child predators, and when he stops fighting against ethics reforms that require legislators to disclose their income.”
Three other candidates also are on the ballot for governor – petition candidate Tom Ervin, Libertarian Steve French and United Citizens Party nominee Morgan Bruce Reeves.