South Carolina

SC Gov. Haley updates website to praise GOP ‘fighters’

Gov. Nikki Haley chats at the S.C. Republican Silver Elephant dinner at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center last week.s
Gov. Nikki Haley chats at the S.C. Republican Silver Elephant dinner at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center last week.s jblake@thestate.com

Gov. Nikki Haley stepped up her attacks Thursday on fellow Republican lawmakers who, she said, have failed to back her legislative priorities.

Haley posted the votes of S.C. House and Senate members on four issues on her former re-election campaign website.

The move comes after Haley said Saturday, at the state Republican Convention, that just 17 of 105 GOP legislators in the Republican-controlled General Assembly have supported her agenda. She added another four lawmakers to her list after the convention, while removing a state senator.

Haley suggested Saturday Republicans should vote out GOP legislators who failed to support a large income-tax cut and ethics reform, and backed giving themselves a pay raise and an aborted plan to borrow up to $500million for projects statewide.

“Fortunately, we have had fighters standing with us on tax reform, ethics reform, debt and legislative pay raises. They deserve praise,” Haley wrote Thursday on her former campaign website. “But we have also seen some legislators vote the wrong way or even walk away from taking votes on tough issues.”

In an interview Thursday, the governor said she is trying to remind her fellow Republicans they have a responsibility to control spending.

“It’s not personal for me,” Haley said. “It’s me doing my job. ... It’s my job to educate and be vocal about it. My friends have voted for those things.”

However, some lawmakers, including key GOP leaders, said the governor’s speeches and online messages will not win over the General Assembly.

“She’s not improving her chances for getting additional votes for the legislation she cares about,” said House Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, a Greenville Republican who was not on Haley’s list of supporters. “It is difficult to compromise with someone who says, ‘I have a position, and it’s not going to change.’”

Bannister also said he was surprised Haley excluded some GOP allies who have voted with the governor nine times out of 10, notably state Reps. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill and Nathan Ballentine of Lexington, from her list of supporters.

Haley’s relationships with House leaders is strained.

House Ways and Means Committee chairman Brian White, an Anderson Republican who was not on the governor’s list of supporters, said he has not spoken with Haley about a legislative matter since the day after her January State of the State address. Haley took White to task at a February news conference over a $500million bond bill that his budget committee passed.

“We, as a Legislature, have things we need to take care of in the state, and I’m not going to get down in the weeds with her ... and get into name-calling,” White said.

The makeover of Haley’s website is just the latest broadside the former GOP state representative from Lexington has leveled at lawmakers since taking office in 2011.

Haley has criticized lawmakers while speaking to business groups this year, suggesting she will try to use her influence in elections next year when all House and Senate seats are on the ballot. Haley campaigned for some state lawmakers and some challengers in 2012 with mixed success.

The spat has spilled over into South Carolina’s pitch to win Volvo’s first U.S. plant. Georgia is the other main competitor for the 4,000-job, $500million plant.

But some lawmakers have questioned why Haley wants to borrow up to $125million to lure the automaker to Berkeley County but is not willing to borrow for other projects, including repairing and renovating National Guard armories and university buildings.

Criticizing fellow Republicans is nothing new for Haley.

She issued report cards for legislators, based on whether they backed her priorities, after the 2011 session. After that, however, Haley compromised more and won legislative backing for a government restructuring bill that had languished for years and new education programs that required extra money.

But, after handily winning re-election last year by nearly 15 percentage points, Haley resumed her combative tone toward lawmakers.

The term-limited governor gave legislators little notice before unveiling a roads-funding plan during her State of the State address and went after legislators who did not back her plan for an income tax cut more than three times the size of her proposed gas-tax hike.

Relations soured further after Haley told an S.C. Realtors group in March that they needed to take a “good shower” after visiting the Statehouse. New Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, took to the House floor afterward, saying Haley's “middle school” comments threatened to “poison the well.”

Haley backers

The 20 Republican lawmakers — 11 senators and nine representatives — who Gov. Nikki Haley says have voted consistently for issues that she backs:

Representatives

Todd Atwater, Lexington; Eric Bedingfield, Greenville; Bill Chumley, Spartanburg; Neal Collins, Pickens; Dan Hamilton, Greenville; Chip Huggins, Lexington; Deborah Long, Indian Land; Rick Quinn, Lexington; Tommy Stringer, Greenville

Senators

Sean Bennett, Dorchester; Chip Campsen, Charleston; Tom Davis, Beaufort; Mike Fair, Greenville; Greg Hembree, Horry; Larry Martin, Pickens; Shane Massey, Edgefield; Harvey Peeler, Gaffney; Paul Thurmond, Charleston; Ross Turner, Greenville; Tom Young, Aiken

NOTE: Sen. Danny Verdin, R-Laurens, was on Haley’s list of supporters Saturday but was not included in emails she sent Thursday.

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