Little Sizzle So Far in S.C. Race to Succeed Barrett

Posted July 20, 2009 at 5:36pm

For anyone looking to second-quarter fundraising reports in order to get a read on how the open-seat race to replace Rep. Gresham Barrett (R) in South Carolina is shaping up, last week’s filings brought deep disappointment.

Of the six candidates who filed Federal Election Commission reports, state Rep. Rex Rice (R) was the top fundraiser with just $67,000 raised and $47,000 in cash on hand as of June 30. Of his total raised, $30,000 came out of his own pocket.

State Rep. Jeff Duncan (R) raised a little more than $40,000 for the quarter, but after spending $26,000, he had just $14,000 in cash on hand as of June 30.

Businessman Richard Cash (R) and state Sen. Shane Massey (R) both raised about $30,000, while attorney and former Congressional aide James Galyean (R) brought in about $27,000 and physician Mike Vasovski (R) raised $16,000.

It was a weak showing for everyone in the upstate 3rd district, a Republican stronghold where the GOP primary and runoff will decide who will be the next Congressman. If no candidate is able to garner more than 50 percent of the vote in the June 8 primary, the top two vote-getters will advance to the June 22 runoff.

The fact that no candidate was able to break the $70,000 mark for the quarter means the GOP race remains wide open. The low early fundraising totals may even make the race more inviting for a candidate who can put large amounts of personal resources into the race.

Freight salesman and state Sen. Michael Thompson (R) is one candidate who certainly has the personal resources to make a financial splash in the race, but after announcing his interest in the race in April, he has yet to file with the Federal Election Commission.

Candidates and consultants attribute the slow fundraising pace so far to several factors, including the state’s sputtering economy — in June, South Carolina was once again listed among the five states with the highest unemployment rates — and the ongoing personal scandal surrounding Gov. Mark Sanford (R).

“The circus that is South Carolina GOP politics right now combined with the state’s economic problems are having a detrimental impact on candidates’ ability to raise money,— said Republican consultant Chris LaCivita, who has managed races in the Palmetto State.

“With the economy, everybody’s tight,— Rice said. “A lot of people are saying, I’m going to give you money, I just need to get caught up a little bit.’—

Rice, who said he’s prepared to put more of his own money into the race if need be, added that raising money inside the district presents a challenge, especially with more than a half dozen Republican candidates either in or considering the race.

“There’s not enough money in the 3rd district to run a Congressional campaign,— Galyean said. “In order to win, you’re going to either have to self-fund, raise statewide— or look to places like Washington, D.C.

Galyean didn’t start raising money until early June, and his $25,000 in cash on hand at the end of the month was the second highest behind Rice.

Galyean has worked for the late Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.) and for his successor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R). Barrett succeeded Graham in the House.

Galyean still has close ties to Capitol Hill and raised about a third of his money from the Washington metro area during June. He already has plans to return to the nation’s capital at the end of July for several more fundraisers.