Palmetto Politics

Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell of Charleston.

The return of Bobby Harrell

Former House Speaker Bobby Harrell made a surprise return to the public arena last week when he appeared at the state Infrastructure Bank Board meeting in Columbia.

The Charleston Republican, who left office because of his ethics-related guilty plea, was there for an update on the contract to complete Interstate 526 across Johns and James islands.

Harrell is a strong proponent of finishing I526, including pushing the infrastructure bank to approve an additional $130 million to $150 million in 2012. The project previously had $420 million but costs had climbed.

Harrell arrived with Charleston County Council Chairman Elliott Summey, who is frustrated by the bank’s delay in signing a revised contract. “He knows the background of this project better than anybody,” Summey said.

Harrell is trying to stay up on state government matters, Summey said, and keeps tabs on the Berlin G. Myers and the Septima P. Clark parkway projects, as well.

The I526 discussion, however, didn’t happen. Senate Leader Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, had to leave early. It was rescheduled for May.

Harrell resigned last year after pleading guilty to six counts of misusing his campaign account for personal benefit.

Former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer doesn’t want to make headlines anymore, but his name popped up last week for selling a piece of property in downtown Charleston.

The one-bedroom, fourth-floor condominium in the Fort Sumter House near The Battery was included in Charleston’s real estate closings for March. It went for $505,000.

Bauer said the sales price doesn’t reflect the money he put into the unit, one of several properties he’s connected to locally.

He also said he’s done with politics. “No interest,” he said. “I’m glad to be out of the paper and glad to be back as a private citizen.”

Bauer, a Republican, was lieutenant governor from 2003-11. He made various headlines while in office, including when the private aircraft he was piloting crashed in the Upstate in 2006.

Former lawmaker Jimmy Bailey toyed with making a second run for mayor of Charleston this year but ultimately decided against it. Now he’s signed up to help another candidate get there.

Bailey will be the campaign chairman for Ginny Deerin, the only woman in the six-way race to follow Joe Riley.

“Ginny is a working mom who spent the past 40 years helping make Charleston the best place to live, work and raise a family,” he said. “She has the management chops, skills and energy to run the city. I am proud to endorse her and to serve as her campaign chairman.”

Bailey is a Republican who ran for mayor in 2003. Filing for the mayoral race won’t open until late summer. Riley is retiring after 40 years.

For what may be the one-millionth time, Gov. Nikki Haley was asked — and answered — the question of whether she’d be interested in being a running mate in 2016.

“I keep saying ‘no,’ and no one believes me,” Haley said during a meeting of the East Cooper Republican Club.

“You all aren’t going to get rid of me that quick,” she added. “I have a family I want to take care of; I’ve got a state I want to take care of.”

She noted that a lot of quality presidential candidates will be visiting in the coming months. Haley is expected to endorse one of them, but not for a while.

The Republican fight over foreign policy hit the dog pound last week when U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and John McCain exchanged broadsides with presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul.

“Put it this way: Senator Paul is the worst possible candidate of the 20 or so that are running on the most important issue, which is national security,” McCain, R-Ariz., said on Fox News. “The record is very clear that he simply does not have an understanding about the needs and the threats of United States national security.”

McCain’s comments came a day after Paul, R-Ky., said that war hawk Republicans such as Graham and McCain are “lap dogs” for President Barack Obama and his foreign policy.

Graham, R-S.C., said that Paul’s foreign policy ideas are “one step behind leading from behind.”

The exchange is just a taste of GOP primary fodder to come. McCain is Graham’s closest ally in Washington and is backing his possible presidential bid.

The S.C. Senate placed the 20-week abortion ban bill for special order this week, guaranteeing its debate before the session ends.

Every year, senators can vote to place a handful of bills for special order, securing their discussion before the end of session. The slots are reserved for bills that are of big importance to legislators. Only one slot is left for this session, with roads and the capital reserve bills vying for it.

Critics say it’s a misplaced fight. “Instead of focusing on legislation to make women and families safer, politicians in South Carolina are trying to make it harder for a woman to receive the health care she needs – often in heartbreaking circumstances,” said Alyssa Miller, spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood. “South Carolina has rejected legislation like this in the past, and it should do right by women again and reject this extreme bill.”

Palmetto Politics is compiled by the Post and Courier staff, including reporters Schuyler Kropf, Cynthia Roldan and Diane Knich.