- Associated Press - Saturday, December 9, 2017

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Pamela Evette enters the 2018 campaign as a blank slate for voters. Most South Carolinians - including those in political circles - never heard of GOPGov. Henry McMaster’s choice for running mate.

But her message may sound familiar.

Evette, the owner of a Greenville County-based payroll and benefits processing firm, hit on the same themes Nov. 28 that McMaster’s predecessor, Nikki Haley, did in her historic run in 2010. She’s touting herself as an outsider with small business credentials and a desire to cut bureaucratic red tape, and as someone who possesses a personal drive and love for America shaped by growing up in an immigrant household.

Haley’s catchphrase “Can’t is not an option” became the title of her 2012 memoir. Evette says her motto, too, came from her upbringing.

“My dad always told us, ‘Work hard. Do good. Aim higher,’ and that’s what we’ll do every day for South Carolina,” Evette said, using the slogan that’s repeated on her social media accounts and personal websites.

Some watching her public debut even thought Evette looked a bit like Haley. But that’s not what they care about and not why McMaster picked her, Furman political science professor Danielle Vinson said.

McMaster’s choice is about the counterbalance Evette provides the ticket, Vinson said. Evette is also first out of the gate, with McMaster beating his three GOP challengers - Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and former state agency head Catherine Templeton - in announcing a running mate pick.

A fifth candidate, John Warren of Greenville, a former Marine captain and businessman, filed paperwork Dec. 1 ahead of a potential run.

At 50, Evette is 20 years younger than McMaster. The mother of three, ages 10 to 21, lives in the Upstate, a crucial GOP voting bloc for McMaster, a Columbia native. And unlike Haley, who was a three-term legislator when she ran for governor against the “good ol’ boy” system, Evette has no political experience whatsoever.

“It’s hard for Henry McMaster to pretend he’s a political outsider,” Vinson said of the former U.S. attorney, state GOP chairman and two-term attorney general. “In this age of ‘everyone hates the politician,’ having someone who’s a business person probably plays well, particularly with the Republican base.”

Like Haley, Evette majored in accounting in college, but at Cleveland State University in her native Ohio. After college, Haley kept the books for her parents’ clothing store, which struggled and eventually closed.

On the campaign trail in 2010, Haley said her first election to the state House at 32 years old was driven by frustrations over governmental regulations on small businesses.

Evette similarly touts a first-hand knowledge with what holds businesses back, but supporters point out her differences with Haley.

Evette, a former accounting consultant and software trainer, has spent the past 17 years growing her own firm, Quality Business Solutions. Though she founded the company in Ohio while a single mom of two, it’s been based in Travelers Rest since 2005 when she married David, whom she met in the industry. They built both their home and business on his grandfather’s land. She says the company, recognized over the past few years by state and national business groups, now has clients in 49 states and a gross revenue topping $1 billion.

Evette says it was her support of Donald Trump that really got her involved in politics last year, and she’s “still a Trump girl.” She and McMaster, an early backer of Trump’s presidential bid, met at a reception in Washington, D.C., in January celebrating the New York billionaire’s inauguration, hosted by mutual friends.

Asked how she viewed the role of state government, Evette rattled off her belief in a need for smaller government, fewer business regulations and low taxes.

“She has all those points she’s making that are similar to Gov. Haley‘s, and they’re very effective,” said Rep. Bruce Bannister, R-Greenville, who attended Evette’s announcement but has not endorsed anyone in the GOP primary. “There’s a group of Republican primary voters who would vote for Nikki Haley again, and that’s not a bad idea to appeal to that segment. I think you’ll hear that from all the candidates during the campaign: ‘Hey, this is my tie to Nikki Haley, and let me tell you how I’m going to do the same stuff she was doing’ - at least, the good stuff.”

While Haley’s parents emigrated from India, Evette is the second generation of her family born in the United States. Her grandparents emigrated from Poland. She says she learned about their sacrifices directly from a grandmother who lived in her multi-generational-home, and her father constantly reminded her and her three older brothers their grandparents “did that all to give us a better life … and we all have to help each other because no one can achieve the American dream alone.”

Katon Dawson, a former GOP state chairman, called Evette a “super pick in the political times we live in.”

“The fact that no one really knows Pamela, that’s OK. They’ll get to meet her,” he said, adding he’s met her only once. She’s “coming off a resume not spoiled by politics. Now we’re going to find out how tough she is.”

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com


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