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Ervin Drops Out to Throw Support to Sheheen

Petition governor candidate Tom Ervin dropped out the race a week before Election Day and endorsed Democrat state Sen. Vincent Sheheen.

Ervin, who dropped out the Republican primary to extend his time to campaign, was polling a distant third in the race despite spending at least $2.5 million of his own money.

Ervin said he entered the race at the last minute because he was upset about testimony on how the S.C. Department of Social Services mishandled cases where children died.

He set out a path as a centrist Republican -- calling for an end to the Common Core education standards while backing the federal Medicaid expansion and raising the gas tax to help pay for road repairs.

Ervin and Sheheen have been critical of the governor, but Ervin‘s departure from the race to support Sheheen came as a surprise.

“It’s what we always say about South Carolina politics, you just never know what’s going to happen,” University of South Carolina political scientist Robert Oldendick said.

In a Winthrop University poll in October, Ervin‘s 3.9 percent trailed Haley's 43.6 percent and Sheheen's 33.6 percent. A more recent poll, commissioned by The (Charleston) Post and Courier and other media outlets, Ervin fared better at 11 percent, but he still lagged Haley’s 51 percent and Sheheen‘s 31 percent.

S.C. political scientists said Haley is still likely to win re-election even with Ervin throwing his support behind Sheheen.

Even if all of Ervin’s supporters vote for Sheheen, it’s not going to make up the gap between him and the governor, The Citadel political scientist Scott Buchanan said.

Oldendick said, “Ervin didn’t have enough traction or enough support to put Sheheen over the top.”

Ervin has gathered almost $4 million in his campaign -- about the same as Haley did in her 2010 bid for governor and $500,000 more than what Sheheen raised during the current campaign.

But Ervin has self-financed a bulk of his campaign.

The former state judge has borrowed $2.2 million from himself and $1.6 million from Arthur State Bank, according to data filed with the state Ethics Commission. Ervin raised just under $100,000 from outside contributors. He had $1.2 million on hand as of last week, according to state records.

Ervin, a Greenville attorney and radio station owner, was a Democrat when he served in the S.C. House in the 1980s but switched parties to run for a House seat in 2005.

His wife, Kathryn Williams, an attorney in Greenville, has donated to both parties in recent years -- including $4,500 to Sheheen’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign and $50,000 to the S.C. Democratic Party that same year, according to state records.

Asked about how they voted in the 2010 election when he entered the race in April, Ervin said he voted for no one for governor. Williams said in April that she thought she wrote-in a candidate.


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