Charleston GOP pursuing state’s televised debate

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul reacts during a scene from the 2012 GOP televised debate schedule.

The Charleston County Republican Party is hoping its city can be a destination for another premier event: South Carolina’s lone televised GOP primary debate.

Local Republican Jonathan Hoffman is in charge of the effort, saying he expects there will be a community-wide campaign to get the debate ahead of the Feb. 20 vote. “To us, it’s a no-brainer for having an event of that caliber in South Carolina,” he said.

The goal is to “make it as easy as possible” for the debate sponsors, CBS News and the Republican National Committee, to pick Charleston, he said.

The North Charleston Coliseum, the TD Arena at the College of Charleston and the new Gailliard Center are possible venues.

For now, the committee is waiting for guidance from the Republican National Committee on how to proceed. “I don’t think they’ve nailed down the numbers yet,” he said. “The free advertising (for the city) is obviously unbelievable.”

The debates are considered cash cows for whatever town lands one. Vendors, construction equipment and carpenters will be needed. Competition will also be fierce. Greenville, Charleston, Columbia and Myrtle Beach are each expected to throw their hats into the ring.

Myrtle Beach is said to be lobbying heavily for the debate to help fill its hotel rooms in the February off-season.

The debate would be around the time that Charleston hosts the Southeastern Wildlife Expo, which could hurt the city’s chances because of the crowds it draws.

The final week of the legislative session was particularly hard on state Rep. David Mack, D-North Charleston, who saw his car go up in flames inside the Statehouse complex garage.

Somehow, his 2008 Chrysler 300 caught fire after he parked it. The key wasn’t in the ignition. The flames were significant but no one was hurt.

While the cause remains under investigation, Mack took to the House floor to thank the first-responders who arrived on the scene, including state Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, who showed up “with a fire extinguisher and led the charge,” Mack said.

“Somebody asked, ‘Why are you so relaxed?’ ” Mack said afterward. “It’s only material stuff.”

The first round of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott’s hosting of town hall meetings with the GOP presidential candidates is set for July 6, in Anderson, with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee scheduled to appear.

Scott, who along with Gov. Nikki Haley, owns the two most prized endorsements in the state, is inviting the candidates to appear with him ahead of the Feb. 20 primary as way for local Republicans to hear their pitches.

“Tim’s Town Halls provide the opportunity for South Carolinians to look candidates in the eye, shake their hand, and make a choice free of polls or that week’s hot name in the media,” his announcement said.

Joining him at the Anderson Civic Center will be U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham spent the first week of his presidential roll-out campaigning in New Hampshire and Iowa, and in rolling out the list of names on his finance committee.

Among those signing on nationally are Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO of General Electric, and Ronald O. Perelman, chairman and CEO of MacAndrews & Forbes Inc.

“Lindsey Graham understands America’s leadership role in promoting an enduring peace on the global landscape,” Perelman said.

Among the local Charleston members of the national finance team are Anita Zucker, CEO, the Inter Tech Group; Charleston attorney Bart Daniel; and Robert V. Royall, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania.

Lawmakers took turns skewering Gov. Nikki Haley and the Department of Commerce last week when Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt requested $123 million in bonds to help front the cost of luring Volvo to Berkeley County.

Frustrated with Commerce’s request for economic development bonds to circumvent having to ask the Legislature for money, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, reiterated that lawmakers should be consulted about such deep-pocket details.

“What I don’t understand is how an industry anywhere in this world would think they could come into a state and do business in that state without involving members of the General Assembly,” she said. “I think it’s important ... that it be made clear to any potential industry that there is some ‘General Assembly required.’ ”

Former Texas Republican Gov. Rick Perry will be aboard the aircraft carrier Yorktown at Patriots Point on Monday beginning at 6 p.m. for a town hall meeting. With him will be retired Navy SEAL and “Lone Survivor” author Marcus Luttrell. The event is open to the public.

Former Florida Republican Gov. Jeb Bush will be at the Charleston Maritime Center on June 18 as part of his announcement tour. That’s a day after Democrat Hillary Clinton is expected to be here.

From political reporters Schuyler Kropf and Cynthia Roldan