Gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen drew recurrent cheers from a small group of party faithful Saturday during an intimate meet-and-greet styled luncheon in Charleston.

Roughly fifty people braved the day's rainy weather to heed the call to rally at Huger's Place restaurant, 587 King St.

Among the attendees were S.C. Rep. David J. Mack III and freshman Sen. Marlon Kimpson.

Sheheen used the opportunity to take a few quick jabs at South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and opposing party members before mingling with the group for about an hour.

The topic of statewide pre-kindergarten programs arose early in Sheheen's speech, as he has been advocating for early childhood education as part of his platform.

"I am tired of having crazy tea party leaders who think it's more important for their political careers to succeed than four-year-old kindergartners to succeed. ... In 2015, after I'm sworn into office and we've begun to change South Carolina, every four-year-old in this state will have the opportunity to attend early childhood education, just like Georgia and just like North Carolina," Sheheen said.

Sheheen criticized Haley's approach to the state's massive cyberattack and the Department of Health and Environmental Control's handling of last year's tuberculosis outbreak at a Greenwood County school. He spoke in favor of Medicaid expansion for the state under the Affordable Care Act.

"I don't care if something is a Republican idea, a Democratic idea or just somebody else's idea. If it's good for this state, it's good for us and we ought to do it," Sheheen said. "That's the attitude we're going to take once we change this government for the better."

In an email, Haley's spokesman Rob Godfrey rebuffed Sheheen's statements, saying it's a "shame" the candidate would "show up and try and further his political agenda whenever we face a challenge in South Carolina."

"Even as its earliest supporters admit ObamaCare is squeezing South Carolina businesses, ObamaCare's biggest cheerleader Vince Sheheen continues to call for its expansion in South Carolina - and that's wrong for our state. Now is as good a time as any for Vince Sheheen to man up and concede that ObamaCare is hurting South Carolina's businesses," Godfrey said.

Sheheen concluded his speech Saturday by urging attendees to make donations toward his campaign and hit the pavement in pursuit of voters.

"Roll up your sleeves, get ready to walk, get ready to knock, get ready to call, get ready to tell the people of this state what we, together, can accomplish," Sheheen said. "We've got nine short months. I need your help."

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908 or at Twitter.com/celmorePC.