SUMMERVILLE -- Republican gubernatorial hopeful Gresham Barrett arrives at a small business here on West Richardson Avenue to emphasize his own background working at his family furniture business in the Upstate.

He tells the small crowd of 30 gathered outside Aura Lee's Jewelry Handbags and Accessories that of all his experiences, which include service in the Statehouse and Congress, "my small business experience would be the most valued."

Bill Summers, who runs this business with his wife, Aura Lee, says he hasn't decided who to support for governor, "but I'll support anybody who is for small business, job creation and wealth protection for those of us who have earned it."

Barrett tells him and others about the lessons he learned as a small businessman, such as working with banks, following rules and regulations and dealing with customers and employees.

He then says, "The answers to this nation's problems are not in Washington, D.C.," where he has represented the state's 3rd congressional district since 2003.

Barrett is not as well known in the Lowcountry as he is in his Upstate congressional turf, and he is making dozens of stops like this to introduce himself to voters here.

He hopes his fellow Citadel alumni will help him, and on this day, he is adding some political wattage to his campaigning by making stops with former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum.

Santorum says Barrett will fight on principle but also is approachable. "I'm a huge fan of this man," he says of his former congressional colleague.

At least half the crowd outside the store has some tie to Santorum's home state of Pennsylvania.

While Barrett has caught flak, particularly in the Upstate, over his 2008 vote for the nation's Troubled Asset Relief Program, it's unclear if that issue will resonate much in this year's race -- particularly since the program is winding down and it appears as if most of the money will be returned to taxpayers.

Bill Boyd of Ladson said he isn't particularly bothered by Barrett's vote on the financial bailout.

"I just don't like all that big spending," he says. "I'm a conservative."

Dave Gerth, who moved from Pennsylvania to Summerville recently to retire, says he's still looking at the Republican gubernatorial candidates. The TARP vote doesn't bother him much, either. "TARP was something that had to happen at that time," he says, "but the second time (with the 2009 economic stimulus bill), we didn't need that at all."

Barrett --like all of South Carolina's Republican congressmen --opposed the stimulus.

Barrett tells the crowd that the three most important issues in this election are "jobs, jobs, jobs," and he specifically mentions the need to update the incentives that the state offers industry relocating here. And he mentions the need to support the Port of Charleston.

"When the (much larger) post-Panamax ships come in, we've got to be ready," he says.

Gerth asks Barrett about his position on cap-and-trade legislation, and Barrett says, "Personally, for South Carolina, I think it's a job killer," adding that it could tack on $1,400 to some household power bills.

Barrett has unveiled his own energy plan calling for more offshore exploration and support for nuclear power here.

He also talks about the need to support public schools more, noting that his wife, a schoolteacher, has had to buy supplies for her class out of her own pocket.

He likens state education spending -- which directs dollars through 46 counties, 85 school districts from 65 different funding sources -- to "a plate of spaghetti. ... We've got to ensure those dollars make it into the classroom where they're needed."

He also says the state must do more to ensure that third graders aren't promoted to fourth grade unless they can read on at least a third grade level.

While Barrett doesn't criticize Gov. Mark Sanford for his frequent clashes with fellow Republicans in the Legislature, Barrett is quick to imply his approach will be different.

Asked how he would eliminate the S.C. Budget and Control Board bureaucracy -- something Sanford has tried to do for years -- Barrett says, "By working with people, the (Speaker of the House) Bobby Harrells, the (Senate President Pro Tem) Glenn McConnells, the (Senate Finance Chair) Hugh Leathermans, the (House Ways and Means Chair) Dan Coopers," he says.

"I'm not looking for the perfect," he adds. "We need a doable solution that can move South Carolina forward."