COLUMBIA — State Sen. Vincent Sheheen confirmed Wednesday that he will launch a gubernatorial bid this summer, setting up a possible rematch with GOP Gov. Nikki Haley.
The move has been widely expected for months, particularly after Sheheen last month released a book laying out his policy prescriptions for improving the state.
Sheheen, a 41-year-old Camden Democrat and attorney, lost to Haley by more than 4 percentage points in 2010.
Haley, also 41, has not formally announced she will seek re-election but is expected to launch a run this summer following the conclusion of the legislative session.
Haley already has hired campaign operatives, including her former chief of staff Tim Pearson. She also has more than $2 million in her campaign account after the first quarter of this year. That’s a significant advantage over Sheheen, who had $92,000 on hand in his Senate coffers at the close of last year.
Sheheen opened a gubernatorial campaign account on Wednesday, making a $500 contribution to himself. He will have to get written authorization from contributors to transfer cash from his Senate coffers to his gubernatorial account.
Sheheen said in an interview that the 2014 race will be defined by whether voters are satisfied with dysfunction in state government, notably last year’s massive breach of taxpayer and dependent information at the state Department of Revenue. Sheheen also took a more direct swipe at Haley, the youngest governor in the country.
“I think people want a governor who’s more concerned about South Carolina than they are about ideology or personal political advancement,” he said.
In a statement, Haley’s political adviser Pearson blasted Sheheen.
“Not really much news here — he’s been running for governor his entire adult life — but it is ironic that Vince Sheheen, a pro-labor union trial lawyer, would announce his candidacy the day after Boeing announced 2,000 new jobs in South Carolina,” Pearson wrote. “Vince’s message to job creators: We’ll raise your taxes, have trial lawyers take you to court, and let the labor unions push you around. Real inviting.”
In a release, S.C. Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said, “If Nikki Haley wants to talk about lifelong political candidates, maybe she should look in the mirror and remember the government has paid her paycheck almost her entire adult life, where Vincent is a small business owner and attorney with a record of results.”