GREENVILLE, S.C. — South Carolina's Republican candidates for governor turned on rival Nikki Haley at a Greenville debate Saturday, criticizing her for missing a vote on her signature issue and allowing outside groups to run television ads on her behalf.
Haley, R-Lexington, said the passage of her roll call voting bill in the House was a two-and-a-half-year fight, and that lawmakers — seeing she was keeping a scheduled appearance in Greenville — changed the scheduled vote time.
The back-and-forth centered on Haley's bill to mandate roll call votes in the legislature. A nonprofit group formed to aid Gov. Mark Sanford, ReformSC, purchased at least $400,000 in television ads supporting the plan and featuring Haley. A judge ordered the ads off the air last week, at the request of opponent U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, pending a hearing, citing evidence the ads broke state election laws.
Challenger Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer challenged Haley on missing 70 percent of House votes, including the vote on her roll call bill.
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"She wasn't there for the vote. She missed the roll call vote," Bauer said, adding there was an "air of hypocrisy."
"If you're going to push for on-the-record voting you ought to be there to vote on it."
All the candidates support roll call voting, Barrett said, but S.C.'s problems should be solved by South Carolinians. Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Job Security has criticized Barrett in radio and television ads. According to their voluntary campaign finance reports, ReformSC's donors are primarily from South Carolina.
"If we're going to talk about issues let's talk about issues," Barrett said. "If we're going to talk about truth let's talk about truth. But let's get these third-parties out of here and let's deal with South Carolina like we’re going to deal with South Carolina."
Haley said she understood why her opponents were taking shots, but that the bill did not pass in a single day.
"The two-and-a-half year fight is the reason the House overwhelmingly voted to have every vote on the record," Haley responded, bringing some audience members to their feet. She said she thanks any group, including ReformSC and the Campaign for Liberty, who supports the proposal.
"I'm grateful for every group that has stood up to support voting on the record"
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