Lowcountry Democrats promised a united front for Vincent Sheheen against Republican Gov. Nikki Haley this fall as they stressed Charleston County remains blue in a sea of red.
"We must speak together with a unified voice to shut down the Republican hate machine," said Brady Quirk-Garvan, who was elected the chairman of the Charleston County Democratic Party on Saturday without opposition.
Sheheen, a state senator from Camden, was the county convention keynote speaker. He continued his criticism of the Haley administration when it came to needs in health care, education and in addressing the theft of taxpayer identification data from the Department of Revenue.
"I'm tired of turning on late-night TV and late-night news and being made fun of," Sheheen told more than 200 delegates at the International Longshoremen's Hall in downtown Charleston regarding the state's image woes.
Saturday's gathering was high on rhetoric. State Rep. Leon Stavrinakis, D-Charleston, said a growing problem he sees in the Statehouse is that it is becoming a place for far-right-leaning Republicans to introduce radical legislation in the hopes of building their own office-jumping resumes.
He called on Democrats to elect Sheheen so that he could "veto these crazy things that go on in the Legislature."
The party membership went on record Saturday with resolutions calling for a variety of legislative reforms, including repealing the state's "stand-your-ground" gun law and ending the I.D. presentation requirement for voting.
In response to the Sheheen appearance, Haley's re-election campaign issued statements defending her record as governor. Press spokesman Rob Godfrey added, "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."
Democrats expressed words of support for traditional Democratic interest groups, including organized labor, women, the NAACP, gays and Hispanics.
State Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, a candidate for lieutenant governor, said he's not overwhelmed by the fact naysayers contend he has a high uphill climb as a black candidate trying to win statewide office in a Republican-leaning state. He added some levity when he noted that Mike Campbell, son of former governor Carroll Campbell, and former Attorney General Henry McMaster are organizing bids on the Republican side.
"Is this 1990? I gotta run against a Campbell and a McMaster?" he joked.
Ginny Deerin, candidate for secretary of state, also addressed the group. "We Democrats, we can do this in November," she told the crowd. Other local candidates spoke as well.
Joyce Dickerson, Democrat for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Tim Scott, was a no-show.
Charleston County could be a key battleground in the governor's race this year. Four years ago, Charleston County supported Sheheen in his first duel with Haley by a margin of about 3,000 votes.
But even with the county's blue status, Stavrinakis tempered the mood slightly when he said that for Sheheen to be the next governor, Democrats will have to do better and over-achieve elsewhere in the state.
"It's about raw votes," he said.
The state Democratic Convention is in May.
In other action Saturday, Dorchester County Democrats elected Ethel Campbell as their chairwoman.
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.
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