FORT MILL -- A coterie of leading S.C. Republicans convened Friday to help Mick Mulvaney launch his bid for the state Senate. None loomed larger than Gov. Mark Sanford, who drove up from Columbia to tell listeners that he "desperately" needs more allies to advance his reform agenda.
"You've seen some sparks fly down in Columbia, but the whole of what we're about is trying to make our state more competitive so the dreams that make our lives have a better chance," said Sanford, enjoying a wave of publicity since being mentioned as a possible vice presidential nominee.
Mulvaney likely will face Democrat Mandy Powers Norrell, a lawyer from Lancaster, in the November election. The winner succeeds the retiring Greg Gregory in District 16.
"Once we start letting state government tell us what we can do with our lives, there's no end to how far it can reach," Mulvaney said, citing as an example a recent S.C. proposal to ban smoking in cars.
Party lined up behind him
Friday's announcement drew a range of Republicans to the Muzak headquarters in an office park across from Carowinds. Among them: Sen. Wes Hayes of Rock Hill, Rep. Gary Simrill of Rock Hill, York County Sheriff Bruce Bryant, York County Councilman Paul Lindemann of Fort Mill and Fort Mill Mayor Danny Funderburk.
The level of turnout hints at the party backing Mulvaney will bring to the contest. Norrell wants to counter it by focusing on her small-town Lancaster roots and her opposition to school vouchers, which provide tax credits for families to send their children to private schools.
Mulvaney voted for a voucher bill last year and has been criticized for kowtowing to Sanford's wishes.
"The voters of York and Lancaster counties would be better served by an independent voice and a real South Carolinian," said Phil Bailey, director of the S.C. Senate Democratic Caucus.
The program started on a nontraditional note as the Muzak hosts played "Back in Black" by the heavy metal band AC/DC over the loudspeakers. It's a song that reflects the "sense of confidence and swagger" of Muzak employees, the company CEO said. It also was a new experience for Sanford.
"Do ya'll play like, Vince Gill?" he asked when he took the microphone.
A real estate developer, Mulvaney, 40, won election to the state House last year. Norrell, 34, has never held elected office. She grew up in Lancaster as the daughter of two former Springs employees, Carl and Beverly Blackmon Powers.
Aside from their political differences, the two candidates live on opposite sides of the district -- Mulvaney in Indian Land, and Norrell well to the south in downtown Lancaster.