Charlotte finds light-rail success

A Charlotte Lynx train pulls into a station on the Blue Line, a $463 million electric light rail system that started operating in November.

COLUMBIA -- South Carolina Republicans plan to soon announce a fundraising team of business leaders and activists for the 2012 first-in-the-South presidential primary, the GOP's executive director said Friday.

GOP Executive Director Matt Moore promised they would be able to collect enough money to pay their share of the $1.5 million contest. "The South Carolina Republican Party is in great shape headed into the fall," Moore said. The primary is scheduled for February, but no date has been set.

The party raised $184,579 for its state accounts during the quarter that ended June 30 and has $216,088 on hand, according to state reports filed Friday. The party will pay for the primary out of its state fundraising account. Meanwhile, the party reported it has $36,676 in its federal account.

The party's biggest state campaign fund donors during the quarter were former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who paid a $35,000 filing fee to get on the presidential primary ballot. Texas Rep. Ron Paul's Liberty PAC paid $20,000 get on the ballot during the quarter, too. Huntsman paid more because he didn't meet the state GOP's early deadline to get a place on the debate stage for the first primary debate in May.

That debate's biggest sponsor, the Greenville Convention and Visitors Bureau, was the second largest GOP donor at $30,000.

Fundraising for the primary will be a challenge for the GOP after weeks of uncertainty about who will put it on and pick up the tab.

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Much of that was settled last week when the GOP-dominated Legislature overrode Republican Gov. Nikki Haley's veto of a budget measure that allowed the state Election Commission to use any of the cash it has left over from the 2010 elections to offset presidential primary costs and continue operations this year. Meanwhile, state Attorney General Alan Wilson said the commission can legally run the presidential primary and bill the GOP.

Before 2008, the state parties were responsible for running their presidential nomination contests. That changed in 2008 as both gained a much higher profile with a wide-open race for the White House.

The GOP still doesn't know how much of the primary's tab it will pay because the state Election Commission doesn't know how much of up to $680,000 in leftover cash can be used and how much may be needed for day-to-day operations and next June's Statehouse primaries.