- - Tuesday, September 27, 2011

SOUTH CAROLINA

Haley demands cheerful ‘great day’ phone answer

COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s governor is ordering state workers to cheerfully answer phones with the phrase “It’s a great day in South Carolina.” Never mind that the state’s 11.1 percent jobless rate and the fact that one in five residents are on Medicaid.

Republican Gov. Nikki Haley issued the order at a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, saying the phrase will put workers in a better mood and remind them that they work for the public. She also says the public will feel better, too.

While Mrs. Haley wants South Carolina residents feeling upbeat, there’s no word yet whether workers who refuse to use the greeting will suffer any consequences.

State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian called the greeting juvenile and, in many cases, inappropriate. He says it’s a great day for someone living in the governor’s mansion.

CAMPAIGN 2012

Romney, Perry, Paul lead GOP money race

Mitt Romney, Rick Perry and Ron Paul have banked millions, but the rest of the Republican presidential hopefuls are struggling or broke four months before the first nominating contests take place.

Ahead of a critical fundraising deadline Friday, the GOP’s contenders are courting donors in Texas, Georgia and New York in last-minute attempts to pick up final dollars. The push comes before they have to file a three-month summary of their finances.

Mr. Romney’s campaign says he could raise as much as $18 million. Perry donors claim he could hit $10 million. Mr. Paul’s campaign asked supporters to celebrate the Texas congressman’s Aug. 20 birthday with a donation — and they gave him $1.6 million just that day.

The rest of the field, though, lags far behind, putting their candidacies into question.

ARIZONA

Initiative would switch state primary to ‘top 2’

PHOENIX — A group led by former Phoenix Mayor Paul Johnson on Tuesday proposed a major redesign of Arizona’s election system, launching a ballot-measure campaign to ask voters to replace the current separate party primaries with a single ballot.

Under the proposal, the two candidates who receive the most votes in the single primary, regardless of political party, would advance to the general election.

Currently, the top vote-getter from each party’s separate primary runs in the general election.

Tuesday’s filing allows supporters to start collecting the 259,213 voter signatures they need to file by July 2012 to qualify the proposed constitutional amendment for the November 2012 ballot.

According to a National Conference of State Legislatures briefing paper on primary elections, four other states had top-two primary systems as of 2010: California, Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington.

According to the NCSL paper, proponents of top-two primaries argue that they may help elect more moderate candidates from the major parties while giving independents an equal voice. Opponents argue that the proposed system can reduce ballot access for third-party candidates and could reduce voter choice if the only two candidates for an office are from the same party.

Supporters of the Arizona proposal said in a statement accompanying the filing that their proposal would promote open government and encourage the election of candidates who will work together for the good of the state.

SENATE

Lawmaker holds up pipeline-safety bill

A single senator is using his power to block legislation that would toughen safety regulations for pipelines even though the pipeline industry, safety advocates and even companies in his state support the measure.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, hasn’t softened his stance, even though a gas-pipeline explosion last week shook constituents awake in three Kentucky counties.

Mr. Paul is a tea party adherent who is broadly opposed to new federal regulation. He won’t discuss his role in holding up the bill. But industry lobbyists, safety advocates and Senate aides said he is the only senator who is refusing to agree to procedures that would permit swift passage of the measure.

OHIO

Obama campaign wades into election-law fight

COLUMBUS — President Obama’s re-election campaign is mobilizing his supporters in the battleground state of Ohio to help challenge an election law that would shrink the state’s early-voting period, which helped him in his first run for the White House.

Obama for America, the state’s Democratic Party and others are working to gather roughly 231,000 signatures by Thursday in an effort to block the law from taking effect until after next year’s presidential election.

Other GOP-led legislatures in the swing states of Florida and Wisconsin have trimmed early-voting periods, though Mr. Obama’s campaign hasn’t sponsored similar activity in those states.

While the statistics don’t show how much Mr. Obama might have benefited from early voting in Ohio, both parties are certain he did. Ohio doesn’t track early voters by party.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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