York County Republicans are calling on local Democrats to cancel plans for a barbecue dinner and campaign rally on Sept. 11, saying the timing is inappropriate.
The day should be reserved for remembering terror attack victims and troops who died in Iraq and Afghanistan, GOP Chairman Glenn McCall said Tuesday.
"September 11 is not a day for partisan political rallies," McCall said. "It's a time for us to look beyond what divides us and come together to remember those who lost their lives."
Democrats said they have no plans to cancel the rally and accused McCall of seeking to manufacture a controversy. The conflict quickly turned into a spat involving gubernatorial candidates Vincent Sheheen and Nikki Haley.
Sheheen, a Camden Democrat, committed to attend the event, scheduled from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Boyd Hill Center in Rock Hill. Also expected are U.S. Rep. John Spratt, superintendent of education candidate Frank Holleman and various local candidates, according to county chairman Richards McCrae.
"If Republicans aren't capable of campaigning or holding a political rally on 9-11 that allows their candidates to reach out to the voters while at the same time being respectful towards that date's meaning in our history, that's their problem," McCrae said. "We, as Democrats, are more than capable of doing so."
The Sheheen campaign reaffirmed its commitment late Tuesday and said Republicans are the ones playing politics.
"There's nothing more fundamental to American freedom than the right for our citizens to gather and participate in democracy," said campaign manager Trav Robertson. "Glenn McCall should be ashamed of himself for attempting to use 9-11 for political gain."
Rounding out the exchange, Republican nominee Nikki Haley's campaign released a statement of its own.
"If Senator Sheheen thinks it's appropriate to hold a partisan campaign rally on Sept. 11, that's his prerogative," Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said. "Our campaign made a decision not to hold political events that day in order to keep the focus where it should be - on honoring the victims and praying for our troops who are fighting and dying for us."
The conflict fits into a larger debate over whether and how Americans should recognize Sept. 11. The question remains volatile nine years after the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center, Pentagon and aboard at airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania.
Other events are scheduled locally and around South Carolina. The Arts Council of York County will host its second annual oyster roast fundraiser in downtown Rock Hill.
Meanwhile, South Carolina hosts Georgia in an SEC football opener while Clemson takes on Presbyterian College.