South Carolina’s governor didn’t come to Rock Hill to campaign against the state’s sixth longest-serving senator because she doesn’t like him.
Wes Hayes is “a nice man, a kind man,” Gov. Nikki Haley told a gathering of supporters of Hayes’ GOP primary opponent, Wes Climer, on Thursday night. But, she added, that’s part of the problem.
It’s why Hayes can count on the support of the “old guard” of the S.C. Legislature in his bid for a seventh term in Columbia, Haley said, because “he’s voted the way they asked him to.”
“He’s always voted with Hugh Leatherman (the Senate’s powerful president pro tempore), and with the Democrats,” she said. “He’s always done it because he’s nice and kind. But he forgot the only people he needs to be nice and kind to are you.”
Haley endorsed Climer less than two weeks before a contested GOP primary on June 14 for the Rock Hill-area seat in the S.C. Senate, one of several races where the governor is backing challengers to several longtime Republican senators who have clashed with Haley’s legislative priorities.
That can even be seen in bills like the recently passed $4 billion roads reform measure that means “you will not see your potholes fixed,” because it still gives legislators approval of the commissioners overseeing the Department of Transportation and will, Haley told the crowd, fix “potholes and roads in the Pee Dee,” where Leatherman has his district.
“We will continue to fight until we get the roads bill we deserve,” Haley said.
he forgot the only people he needs to be nice and kind to are you.
Gov. Nikki Haley, on Rock Hill Sen. Wes Hayes
Climer, speaking with the governor on the front steps of his Rock Hill home to around 100 people who turned out for a barbecue cookout, told the crowd he agrees with Haley on roads, taxes and ethics reform, among other measures that always “get stalled in the Senate.”
“People are tired of swerving around potholes. They’re tired of sitting in traffic jams ... and knowing that millions of their tax dollars are wasted every year through pork-barrel spending,” he said.
Most of those who turned out to welcome the governor were already committed Climer supporters. Scott Harrell is in Bible study with the candidate at Westminster Presbyterian Church.
“For me, it’s the fact that he’s a new face with new ideas. We need to enfuse some new ideas into the Senate,” Harrell said. “I definitely think term limits are essential, at the state and federal level.”
Lynn Viets is a longtime Republican with the York County GOP, of which Climer was chairman before he resigned to challenge his fellow Republican Hayes.
“When Wes (Climer) announced, I was with him wholeheartedly,” Viets said. “I keep looking for faults in him, but I haven’t seen any.”
Haley hopes those supporters will attract more people like them to the polls on Tuesday. She recalled on her own run for the Statehouse in 2004 against another long-serving legislator. Every business in her old Lexington district had his signs in the windows then, but when people got to the voting machines, “they voted differently,” she said.
Now Haley, who acknowledged she’s halfway through her final term, believes a similar change is needed in Rock Hill.
“When Wes Hayes is done, we should thank him for his service,” Haley said, “but you deserve a fresh face in Wes Climer.”