COLUMBIA (AP) A Democrat hoping to become South Carolina’s next governor has picked a fellow state lawmaker as his running mate in this year’s election, telling The Associated Press the ticket has already begun attracting the Republican support that will be needed to win the November general election.
Smith and his pick for lieutenant governor, state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, sat down with The Associated Press ahead of an official announcement, planned for May 11 in Norrell’s hometown of Lancaster. Smith said he picked Norrell in part because of his confidence in her ability govern but also the bipartisan attitude she has displayed during her six years in the Legislature.
“Mandy is so well-respected on both sides of the aisle,” Smith said. “There’s under-the-radar Republican excitement for this ticket.”
This year marks the first time that candidates for South Carolina governor and lieutenant governor will run on the same ticket, and Smith is the last of the three Democratic hopefuls to announce his running mate. Florence attorney Marguerite Willis has picked state Sen. John Scott, while Charleston consultant Phil Noble announced May 10 he’d be running with Gloria Bromell Tinubu, an educator and former Atlanta city councilwoman who has previously run for the U.S. House.
Gov. Henry McMaster has selected businesswoman Pamela Evette as his pick for lieutenant governor.
Since Norrell joined him in the state House in 2012, Smith said the two have teamed up on a number of legislative efforts, including a recent proposal to remove a limit on the expansion of solar power generation in South Carolina, a measure intended to protect jobs and save utility customers money. The effort failed, under pressure from the state’s major utilities, but had bipartisan support.
Since 2003, both South Carolina’s Legislature and its governorship have been controlled by Republicans. Smith said the combined 28 years he and Norrell have spent in the General Assembly enable them to establish an administration that knows how to navigate the House and Senate chambers to garner necessary legislative support.
“It’s about mutual respect,” Smith said, of both his and Norrell’s efforts to engender support among Republicans. “You’ve got to build relationships when you don’t need them.”
Norrell, who has already campaigned at county-level Democratic Party gatherings for Smith, said she sometimes finds herself “to the right” of her running mate.
Norrell won her most recent re-election bid without any Republican opposition, while President Donald Trump carried her home county of Lancaster handily, defeating Hillary Clinton by more than 24 percent.
In the next month leading up to the June 12 primary, Smith and Norrell plan to visit each of South Carolina’s 46 counties.
A Republicans for Smith group is growing, and Smith – who served eight years as a JAG officer in the South Carolina Army National Guard before resigning his commission, re-enlisting as an infantryman and serving a year in Afghanistan – said he and Norrell will work through the summer to build both grassroots Democratic and crossover Republican support.
“The values that we bring to this ticket are the values that are reflected in the hearts and minds of South Carolinians all over this state,” Smith said. “And I think we will be able to appeal to Democrats who are fired up, and independents, and Republicans who believe in a better South Carolina.”