Someone was filming a reality TV show in Charleston when all of a sudden a U.S. Senate race broke out.
Amid a heavy presence of cameras, co-stars and crew, independent Senate candidate Thomas Ravenel spoke to a business group on Wednesday to promote his run to replace Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.
Shortly into his appearance, it was clear that getting good TV footage for the second season of "Southern Charm" was just as important as hearing Ravenel's message about trying to replace a two-term Senate incumbent.
"Yeah, there are some Bravo people here but I am dead serious about this race," Ravenel told about 60 members of the West Ashley-James Island Business Association meeting on the upper floor of Charleston's Holiday Inn Riverview.
Prior to his speech, Ravenel worked the room under stands of bright TV lights put in place well in advance of the 11:30 a.m. start time. Multiple camera crews followed him with crew members communicating with each other by way of microphones.
"We'll just do an over-the-shoulder shot," one said as another cast member, Shepard "Shep" Rose, was filmed prior to Ravenel's arrival.
A warning to all those who attended the luncheon was posted outside the meeting room door telling anyone who came inside that they could be filmed for the show.
"You are being photographed," it said.
Beyond the TV footage, Ravenel stuck to his theme of wanting to replace Graham, whom he said has been in Washington too long and has become part of the pattern of irresponsible spending in Congress.
Government needs to get "out of the way of people who create jobs and produce prosperity," he said.
During his address, Ravenel's short previous stint as South Carolina's elected Republican state treasurer, his cocaine arrest and 10-month federal prison sentence weren't totally glossed over by the candidate.
"The great thing about me is, my skeletons are already out there," he told the group. "You know what my skeletons are."
He also said he expected Graham's supporters to "carpet bomb" him about his past.
Ravenel joined the Senate race earlier this summer after collecting the necessary 10,000 signatures of registered voters to get on the November ballot as an independent candidate not affiliated with any political party. Also in the running are Democrat Brad Hutto and Libertarian Victor Kocher.
Ravenel told the crowd he was equally disdainful of both Republican and Democrats in Washington. "They are thieves of our livelihood and our liberties," he called them.
Ravenel, 52, would not disclose how much of his own money he planned to put in the race but did allude to "millions of dollars."
He also said he is being paid $5,000 per episode for the upcoming season of "Southern Charm," or double what he was paid for the show's first season.
Ra said it might not be until October if he decides to "go way deep" on personal spending, depending on polling results.
Ravenel wasn't the only cast member to appear at the speech and in the filming sequences. Also in attendance were cast members Whitney Sudler-Smith and J.D. Madison.
Some in the audience said it was hard to look at Ravenel as a serious candidate given the media swirl around the TV show.
"How can he be?" said Jonathan Holt. About Ravenel running as a candidate for federal office he added "I don't take it very seriously. I don't enjoy the show and I don't like its take on this area."
Some others in the room liked what they heard. Thomas Ramquist, a recent transplant who said that he knew next-to-nothing about Ravenel, his past or his TV show said he supported the candidate's call for reigning in the federal government.
He called Ravenel "honest and direct in what he's trying to do."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551
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