S.C. Democratic leadership takes odd step of endorsing Hutto in U.S. Senate race

Brad Hutto

The leadership of the South Carolina Democratic Party has endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Brad Hutto in the party primary, a further indication they remain uncomfortable with newcomer Jay Stamper.

The party's Executive Committee voted unanimously to endorse Hutto in the battle for U.S. Senate against Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham. The Executive Committee is made up of representatives from every county in the state.

Their endorsement message only vaguely referred to Stamper, of Columbia, who recently moved to the state and had no history with the S.C. Democratic Party before trying to become their Senate nominee.

He did not fare well during the party's candidate vetting process, a spokeswoman also said, pointing to legal troubles Stamper faced when he lived out West.

The vetting process was created after Alvin Greene, an unemployed former soldier, won the party primary against Vic Rawl in 2010, but later was found to have an obscenity charge hanging against him.

"Unlike Lindsey Graham, Brad Hutto will always put South Carolina first," said Democratic Party Chairman Jaime Harrison.

He continued, "Lindsey Graham is more worried about world affairs and national television shows than he is the folks back home. Brad Hutto will make sure South Carolina gets its fair share in education funding and see that our rural infrastructure is strengthened - that's the kind of leader we need in the Senate representing South Carolina."

Hutto is a veteran state senator and attorney who represents Orangeburg in the Legislature.

Stamper responded to the snub by saying he's "paid a price for standing up to the party establishment."

"I'm proud to be a Democrat but I won't fall in line behind a Democratic standard-bearer who thinks we should be dictating women's reproductive choices, telling people who they can and can't marry and siding with the NRA to allow guns in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol," he said.

Stamper added "I would have appreciated the opportunity to address the Executive Committee."

Other Democrats said they were ready to move ahead with Hutto.

"This endorsement is a signal to voters around the state that Brad Hutto has earned our support and he is the right choice in the Democratic Primary election," said party Vice Chair Kaye Koonce of Charleston.

The party's announcement said Hutto "faces one opponent (Stamper) in the Democratic Primary" on June 10.

Meanwhile, Dorchester County Democrats will host a candidate "Meet & Greet" Saturday at Ridgeville Town Hall, 105 School St., in Ridgeville, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551