By Rob Novit
With her record of not paying taxes on time, which costs her thousands of dollars in penalties, Republican gubernatorial nominee Nikki Haley couldn't get a job with the S.C. Department of Revenue, said her general election opponent, Democrat Vincent Sheheen.
"Yet she expects South Carolina to allow her to run the Department of Revenue and run the entire state government," Sheheen said during a brief campaign stop at the Aiken Municipal Airport Tuesday.
A state senator from Camden, Sheheen said the penalties and fines are significant amounts and that Haley's actions don't match her rhetoric about transparency and accountability.
Haley has been Gov. Mark Sanford's biggest supporter in the House, and if she is elected, "We won't create anything and will continue to be a laughingstock to the nation," Sheheen said. "As far as leadership goes, we as South Carolinians deserve a lot better. It's more than being a Democrat or Republican. It's about moving forward and bringing leadership back to South Carolina."
Sheheen flew to five cities Tuesday with his message. His campaign didn't announce the visit until Monday afternoon, and only a few supporters came to the airport, among them former Aiken Party Democratic Party Chairman Charles Staples.
"I just wanted to hear what Sheheen had to say and let him know there are some Democrats in Aiken County," Staples said. "I think he's the best candidate with his experience in the legislature. He's just better qualified."
Staples acknowledged he's not proud of the way the country is heading, but "the answer is not the Tea Party movement."
Sheheen has seldom visited Aiken since he announced his candidacy but said he has been warmly received during his stops in the community. He cited as inspirations former governors such as Republican Carroll Campbell and Dick Riley, who spent their days recruiting businesses and industry and supporting the economic engines of South Carolina.
Public education is also critical, Sheheen said, and needs to have reforms that matter, smaller class size, better teacher pay and equity in funding. Democratic Party Chair Harold Crawford, First Vice Chair Teresa Crawford and others expressed concern about vouchers if Haley is elected.
"It would be a voucher perk for those who already have kids in private schools," said Crawford, "as voucher plans have no transportation component. She (Haley) speaks only to dealing with people who have enough to get by on and nothing for people who do need help."
Haley has charged that Sheheen has said little about issues such as immigration reform.
On Tuesday, Sheheen said Haley seems to think she's running for governor of the United States.
"The issues that matter are restoring trust in government, creating jobs and getting confidence back in public education," he said, "no matter how much she wants to talk about national issues like Sanford does."
People have to stop staying within party lines and start looking at the character of the person who will be the leader of the state, said Sheheen supporter Phyllis Maclay.
"Some things are in Haley's past that I would not want as a leader in any form, especially as governor," Maclay said. "I like the fresh ideas we heard today, especially in addressing job creation and public education."