Charleston County school board chair dumps Bush for Rubio

Pharmaceutical chief Martin Shkreli arrives Thursday on Capitol Hill in Washington to appear before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on his former company’s decision to raise the price of a lifesaving medicine. Shkreli refused to testify before U.S. lawmakers who excoriated him over severe hikes for a drug sold by a company that he acquired.

In September, Charleston County School Board Chairwoman Cindy Bohn Coats proudly stood with former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at a GOP function in Mount Pleasant, endorsing him as the best choice for president.

Last week, she quietly ditched Bush and changed her allegiance to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

“I think I went into this election cycle assuming it needed to be a governor,” Coats said Friday. “Someone who had run a state, someone who had the experience of running that. I think that’s no longer a pre-requisite.”

The endorsement announcement was made by the Rubio campaign.

The switch probably came as a shock to the Bush campaign, as Coats said she never alerted any Bush representatives that she was jumping ship. She had been identified as an honorary co-chair of Bush’s Charleston County leadership team.

Coats changed her mind after the Iowa caucus. She also down-played the importance of the county’s top elected education official making a White House pick. Bush has made his record on education in Florida a part of his appeal.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who is a product of Charleston County public schools, endorsed Rubio last week.

The SC Equality Coalition, which is South Carolina’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocacy group, endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton for president Saturday.

The organization’s leadership praised Clinton for her record in advocating for the LGBT community.

“Hillary Clinton has a decades-long record of fighting for equality and has demonstrated her belief that our country is at its best when we are inclusive and open,” said Jeff Ayers, executive director. “She knows our fight for equal rights is far from finished, which is why we need her leadership as we continue to make progress.”

The Democratic primary is Feb. 27.

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy was one of several members of Congress flustered at the non-testimony of bad-boy drug company pharmaceutical executive Martin Shkreli last week.

Gowdy, R-S.C., tried to get Shkreli, 32, to tell the Oversight and Government Reform Committee why he raised the prices of life-critical prescription drugs from $13.50 per pill to $750. Shkreli, who is facing federal charges for securities fraud, repeatedly invoked the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

Gowdy wasn’t going to let him off the hook, asking if he was pronouncing Shkreli’s name correctly. When Shkreli answered in the affirmative, Gowdy pounced.

“See? There! You can answer some questions! That one doesn’t incriminate you!” Gowdy said. “Not all of your answers are going to subject you to incrimination. You understand that, don’t you?”

“I intend to follow the advice of my counsel, not yours,” a smirking Shkreli said.

Gowdy made a few more tries. “I’m just wanting to make sure you’re not getting the wrong advice,” Gowdy said.

He then tried to beat Shkreli at his own game. “You gave an interview to a television station in New York where, if I understood correctly, you couldn’t wait to come educate the members of Congress on drug pricing.”

Finally, Gowdy said Shkreli could talk to the committee about anything he wanted, even the special one-of-a-kind Wu-Tang Clan album he purchased for $2 million.

“Is it Wu-Tang Clan? Is that the name of the album? The name of the group?” Gowdy asked.

Shkreli wouldn’t even answer that.

Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler, R-Gaffney, meant no offense, he said, to Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Camden, or to Gov. Nikki Haley on Thursday when on the Senate floor he jokingly told Sheheen he felt bad for him.

During the debate about the lack of debate on roads funding, Sheheen referred to reform and tax relief requirements proposed by Haley as “hurdles” slowing the debate.

That led to Peeler lightheartedly noting that Sheheen, the Democrats’ candidate for governor twice, has “been beat up twice by a girl,” referring to both times he got buried by Haley.

“It’s bad isn’t it?” Sheheen said chuckling.

“He popped the governor and I probably hit back a little too hard, but it was all in jest,” Peeler said later. “If I didn’t think it was appropriate, I wouldn’t have made it.”

Charleston businessman William Cogswell Jr. will seek the Republican nomination for the House District 110 seat currently held by Rep. Chip Limehouse, who is not running for re-election.

Former Dorchester County councilman Wayne H. Reeves announced he’s a Republican a candidate for Dorchester County coroner.

Wireless company businessman Steven Smith will run as a Republican for the state House District 15 seat held by GOP incumbent Sam Rivers of Goose Creek.

Republicans

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has two events planned in the Charleston area Wednesday. At noon he’ll have a town hall at Finn’s Brick Oven and Pizza in Mount Pleasant. At 2:30 p.m. he’ll be at an Auto Ad veterans job creation event at 7 Radcliffe St., Suite 201.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will be at the College of Charleston from 4:30– 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Stern Center Garden, 71 George St.

Democrats

None announced

More Charleston region stops are expected to be announced early in the week.

Post and Courier reporters Emma Dumain, Gavin Jackson and Schuyler Kropf contributed.