AP NEWS

Ad: SC Dem vying for governor isn’t moderate he claims to be

October 9, 2018
FILE - In this May 24, 2018, file photo, Democrat James Smith participates in a debate for the governor's race at Clemson University in Clemson S.C. Smith, vying to be South Carolina's next governor says he'll need crossover support to win in November, but his Republican opponent is pointing out an endorsement from a progressive faction of the Democratic Party. (Grace Beahm Alford/The Post And Courier via AP, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The Democrat vying to be South Carolina’s next governor has acknowledged he’ll need crossover support to win victory in November, but his Republican opponent is pointing out an endorsement state Rep. James Smith got from a progressive faction of the Democratic Party.

Gov. Henry McMaster is up Tuesday with a new digital ad buy using clips of Smith talking about his support from Our Revolution, the offshoot of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign.

“The Bernie wing of our party is supporting this campaign because they know me and what I’ve been about my whole life,” Smith says in footage, underneath a sign for the Oconee County Democratic Party. After another clip featuring Sanders talking about the creation of Our Revolution , the video also shows footage of Sanders saying concepts of his once described as “fringe” and “radical” are now considered “mainstream American ideas.”

Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ campaign manager, is shown in a cable television interview saying Sanders’ proposals like free public college tuition and universal health care are “basically articles of faith in the Democratic Party now.”

At the end of the spot, black-and-white images of Sanders and Smith appear side-by-side under red words reading, “James Smith: Bringing Bernie Sanders to South Carolina.”

Smith’s campaign responded quickly Tuesday morning.

“Unlike the McMaster campaign, which practices the politics of exclusion, we practice the politics of inclusion. We have and we welcome the support of citizens who voted for Bernie Sanders as well as those who voted for Donald Trump, and everyone in between,” said Brad Warthen, a spokesman for Smith’s campaign.

Smith, a longtime state House member representing the Columbia area, has said he has known he’ll need Republicans to cross over and vote for him in order to win the general election. In announcing his selection of fellow state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell as his running mate, Smith told AP earlier this year that a Republicans for Smith group was forming, and he planned to work through the summer to build both grassroots Democratic and crossover Republican support.

“If Henry digs deep enough, he can probably also find video of James talking to paupers, orphans, and tax collectors....which puts him in fine company,” Norrell said.

Smith has already been the target of the Republican Governors Association, which earlier this year went after him for “consistently and shamelessly” supporting tax hikes, with an ad of Smith saying, “It was the right thing to do.” Though the reference was unclear due to the ad’s strategic editing, it echoed statements that Smith has made about a gas tax increase that passed overwhelmingly, with bipartisan support, in 2017. Another spot also said Smith backed “Bernie Sanders-style big government.”

In releasing the digital ad, on which the McMaster campaign said it planned to spend at least five figures, spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg told AP that Smith isn’t the moderate candidate he’d like to appear to be.

“James Smith is running on Bernie Sanders’ agenda of higher taxes, government-run $32 trillion health care, and abortion on-demand,” McMaster campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg said in a statement to AP. “The more voters learn about James’ embrace of the most fringe, radical ideas of the Left, the more they will be turned off by his message that is wholly out of step with South Carolina values.”

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Kinnard can be reached on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard .