Columbia — Flush with contributions from Oregon, Arizona, New Hampshire and about 30 other states, Gov. Nikki Haley’s war chest continues to grow, increasing by more than $395,000 in the quarter that just ended.
The first-term governor has nearly $998,000 in cash on hand to run for re-election in 2014. The Lexington Republican, who raised nearly $4 million for her 2010 governor’s race, has yet to say whether she will run again.
“The governor is focused on the job she was elected to do, not the next election,” said Rob Godfrey, Haley’s spokesman. “It’s still much too soon to think about a 2014 election.”
Despite that, Haley has been busily traversing the country, holding fundraisers and picking up donations, ranging from $5 to $3,500, from physicians, piano teachers, tree farmers, tax collectors, postal carriers and others who live both in and outside South Carolina.
In the three-month quarter that just ended, more than 900 individuals donated to Haley, who has nurtured a national reputation as a tea party-backed oddity — a young, minority woman who beat the odds to become governor of a Deep South state.
While a majority of donations came from individuals, Haley also received donations from cigarette-maker Philip Morris U.S.A., the S.C. Cemetery Association, local restaurants and a handful of political action committees, including those of the Columbia law firm Nexsen Pruet, General Electric and the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
Assuming Haley runs for re-election, she could face a challenge once again from state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, D-Kershaw, the Democrats’ 2010 gubernatorial nominee.
Sheheen, who narrowly lost to Haley, raised about $8,000 during 2012’s second quarter and has nearly $115,000 on hand.
‘Never say never’
Sheheen, who faces no challenger in his November re-election bid to the state Senate, received the majority of his money from political action committees, including ones for Bank of America, automobile dealers, Farm Bureau and a health care organization.
Sheheen, who blasted Haley this week for vetoing state money for the arts and teacher pay raises, is mulling another run for governor in 2014.
But he said he won’t decide whether to run again until after November.
“I’ve got to focus on the law firm and family and my Senate duties,” he said. “It’s a little bit too early to decide what comes next.”
However, Sheheen would not rule out a run. “Never say never.”
New leadership positions meant more money for some state lawmakers.
New Senate President Pro Tem John Courson, R-Richland, raised more than $89,000 over the last three-month period and now has almost $243,000 in his war chest as he heads into the November general election.
By comparison, Courson raised $1,250 during this same period last year.
Promoted to the Senate’s top post after then-Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell stepped down to become lieutenant governor in March, Courson faces Democrat Robert Rikard in November.
Courson said his fundraising ability might have been helped a bit by his new leadership role, but bigger factors, he said, are his seniority in the Senate, his chairmanship of the Senate Education Committee and his bipartisan appeal.
“I’ve had the ability, over the years, to raise money from Republicans, Democrats and independents,” Courson said.
New House Ways and Means chairman Brian White, R-Anderson, raised nearly $12,000, three times the amount he raised during the second quarter of the cycle last year. White’s new post means he leads the House’s budget-writing efforts.
White’s higher-profile role helps with fundraising, but it also made him a bigger target, he said Tuesday. Much of the additional money he raised was to prepare for a possible primary challenge.
“No one announced, but I wasn’t going to sit back and wait,” White said.
Meanwhile, one candidate’s lack of fundraising has raised doubts about whether he will seek re-election.
State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais has received no contributions since September, leading some Democrats to speculate that the Newberry Republican will not seek re-election in 2014.
Zais has about $4,500 cash on hand, according to the new disclosures, and owes $45,000 to pay off a loan to his campaign.
However, spokesman Jay Ragley said Zais will seek re-election and is concentrating on his job, not fundraising.
Zais raised about $400,000 for his 2010 race and should be able to raise the same amount in the year leading up to his 2014 race, Ragley said.