- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 25, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - State Sen. Vincent Sheheen has filed for his spot on the ballot to challenge South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Sheheen, D-Camden, filed his paperwork Tuesday morning with the state Election Commission. Haley followed several hours later.

Their filings officially signal the long-expected rematch between the 2010 general election opponents. Sheheen lost by 4.5 percentage points.

Both sides are already pointing fingers. While Haley’s advocates have run ads highlighting Sheheen’s support for expanding Medicaid, Sheheen rattles off issues that he says show her lack of leadership. At the top of his list is the fall 2012 hacking of the Department of Revenue in which a cyber-thief stole unencrypted personal data belonging to 6.4 million people and businesses.

It’s time to “put the nightmare of the last four years behind us,” Sheheen said.

Haley said her opponent is just cherry-picking parts of her record. She plans to point out South Carolina’s dropping unemployment rate - it was 9.1 percent when she took office and 6.4 percent in January. She also will remind voters she has worked to lower their taxes and helped shepherd through a modest increase in road funding.

“He’s going to say what he needs to say. All I have to do is show my record,” Haley told a small crowd at the state Republican Party headquarters.

No other candidate has announced a run for governor. Unless someone jumps in before the two-week filing period ends Sunday, both Haley and Sheheen will go unchallenged in the June primaries.

As of their January campaign disclosures, Haley had $3.7 million available to spend on the race, while Sheheen had about $1.4 million.

Their filings come a day before a pro-Haley group called The Movement Fund releases its first TV ad this year. The 30-second, statewide spot asks the state Senate to approve a budget that includes Haley’s budget recommendations for K-12 public schools.

The House’s budget plan for 2014-15 includes her proposal that gives more to students in poor, rural districts without taking money away from other districts. It spends $30 million on additional reading coaches in elementary schools, $29 million to improve schools’ Internet and wireless capabilities and adds a first-ever weighting for poverty in funding formulas. That translates to an additional $97 million spent on students who qualify for free- and reduced-price meals.

Sheheen says the ad proves Haley’s motivation in unveiling her education plan this year was purely political, after years of her proposed cuts and vetoes to public education. He plans to push this year to increase teachers’ salaries and further expand 4-year-old kindergarten. Last year, the Legislature approved a plan he advocated for the first expansion of a 2006 pilot program providing state-paid, full-day kindergarten for at-risk 4 year olds.

“If you want another politician who just talks, that would be Haley. If you want somebody who’s accomplished something in education, there’s a clear alternative,” Sheheen said.

Haley said she inherited a state with serious problems when she was elected in 2010 to replace fellow Republican Mark Sanford. She said her first priority was to bring more jobs to the state and lower the unemployment rate. She said if she gets four more years, she can concentrate on improving education and giving everyone in South Carolina a foundation for a better life.

“This administration has worked as hard as we can to improve the lives of all people,” Haley said.

The education commercial follows two TV ads paid for by the Republican Governors Association that attack Sheheen as supporting the federal health care overhaul and tie him to President Barack Obama. Sheheen says the ads distort his position on Medicaid expansion. Sheheen has said Haley shows a lack of leadership by refusing to expand Medicaid eligibility under the federal law to an estimated 200,000 poor uninsured adults in South Carolina. He calls it foolish ideology.

Sheheen said the early ads show “they’re very scared.”


Associated Press Writer Jeffrey Collins contributed to this report.

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