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May 042013

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — South Carolina got a taste of two very different political acts Friday night.

On one side was Vice President Joe Biden, a 35-year veteran of the Senate who showered praise on his old congressional colleagues and drew on his standard stump speech from the 2012 campaign, talking about Democrats’ commitment to the middle class and declaring that Republicans are “down on America.”

“One of the things that bothers me most about the new Republican party is how down on America they are, how down on our prospects they are, how they talk about how we’re getting clobbered, how they talk about things that have no relationship to reality, all in the name of making sure that the very few at the top do very well,” Biden said at the South Carolina Democratic Party’s annual Jefferson Jackson Dinner Friday night.

On the other side, two miles down the road, was Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, a rising star in the Republican Party, less than six months into his first term as a senator. Cruz wooed the South Carolina Republicans with his talk of repealing President Obama’s healthcare plan and protecting constitutional rights.

“We should be defending the fourth and fifth amendments against an administration that recognizes no limits on its powers,” Cruz said at the South Carolina GOP’s Silver Elephant Dinner as he went through each of the constitutional rights he believes the Obama administration is threatening.

Biden and Cruz each traveled to South Carolina, known as the “First in the South” primary state, to honor leaders in their respective parties, but the visits fueled speculation about each man’s intentions for the presidential election three years from now.

The vice president acknowledged that his trip to South Carolina would create a buzz about 2016 but insisted he solely came to celebrate Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., who was being honored at the evening’s fundraiser.

“I love coming down here to South Carolina…As soon as I show up in South Carolina, the Washington press corps comes out saying, ‘Is Biden getting ready?’” he said, before adding that he came at the request of Clyburn. “I’ve got to make clear — I would go anywhere Jim asked me to go.”

As they opined before their party faithful Friday evening, both politicians were very cognizant of the other’s presence in South Carolina. Biden referenced the Silver Elephant Dinner occurring down the road multiple times in his speech but refrained from mentioning the Texas senator by name, instead jokingly saying “I don’t want to make any news tonight.”

But Cruz was a bit more direct in his acknowledgement of Biden, who he challenged to a debate over the Second Amendment at the National Rifle Association in Houston, Texas earlier on Friday.

“So Vice President Joe Biden’s in town,” Cruz said to laughs. “You know the great thing is you don’t even need a punch line? You just say that and people laugh.”

Cruz admitted Republicans are “demoralized” by the results of the 2012 election but predicted the political fortunes of the GOP will change in 2014.

“Things can change quickly,” he said. “I am convinced with your help we’re going to take back the U.S. Senate in 2014.

Asked if Cruz is a viable presidential candidate, former Sen. Jim DeMint, head of the Heritage Foundation, who was being honored at Friday night’s event, told reporters that voters are clamoring for a leader like Cruz but said Friday’s speech wasn’t a signal of a presidential run.

“Give the guy a break, he’s just coming to speak for us here,” DeMint told reporters. “Everybody comes to South Carolina you say they’re running for president. I can assure you he’s thinking about Senate business and that’s about it right now.”

“He’s one of the strongest Republicans in the country now. I’ve been in 25 cities in the past few months, all I have to do is mention Ted Cruz’s name and people stand up and cheer,” DeMint said. “They’re hungry for someone who’s not afraid and willing to stand up, who’s trying to change the status quo.”

While he didn’t directly express a desire to run in 2016, Cruz did link himself to the early primary state by pointing out the connection between Texas and South Carolina dating back to the Alamo, similar to a story Texas Gov. Rick Perry often referenced while in South Carolina during his presidential bid last year.

“Texas and South Carolina have a long long connection, a connection that goes back centuries…There were two native South Carolinians – William Barret Travis and James Bonham in the Alamo,” Cruz said. “That’s the tradition, that’s the history of South Carolina and Texas, and it’s a tremendous thing. So thank you for the support South Carolina has given then and now as we fight side by side for freedom.”

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Mar 172013

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(CAROLINA FOREST, S.C.) — Officials are investigating a Saturday night brush fire that consumed 26 condominium buildings and burned more than 100 homes in Carolina Forest, S.C.

The South Carolina Forestry Commission is handling the investigation after the fire destroyed dozens of buildings. According to the Myrtle Beach Sun-News, weather conditions including wind gusts, low humidity and warm temperatures have created elevated fire danger levels.

The smoke from Saturday night’s fire could be seen for miles. According to the Sun-News, firefighters responded to the fire at approximately 5:00 p.m. Saturday, finally getting the flames under control at about 10:30 p.m., as reported by the Sun-News. Four first responders were taken to the hospital, but no residents were injured or killed.

While the cause of the fire is not clear, one witness told the Sun-News that it seemed to begin near a set of power lines.

It is unknown how many people were displaced by the fire. Residents of the buildings that were not burned down were told that they could retrieve imperative belongings, such as medication, on Sunday morning.

A burn ban has been put into effect, prohibiting any open flames indefinitely.

In addition, the South Carolina Forestry Commission says that they have a Red Flag warning out, meaning that the warmth, lack of humidity and winds, the same weather conditions that fed Saturday night’s blaze, still exist and citizens should remain cautious.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Feb 182013

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — Mark Sanford wants you to know that he has learned from his mistakes and will try to change Washington if he gets there.

That’s the message of his first TV ad, now visible on cable airwaves in Charleston, S.C., where the former governor is attempting the political comeback of the decade. With more ads to come, Sanford has reserved $160,000 worth of TV time before the March 19  primary, according to his campaign.

Sanford, who famously resigned the governorship following the revelation of an extra-marital affair with an Argentinian woman, faces 15 other candidates in his race to reclaim the state’s First Congressional District, which he represented from 1995 to 2001, before assuming the governorship. Just about every kind of local pol has come out to oppose him: current and former state legislators; a sheriff; a personal-injury lawyer; a former JAG officer; a former Secret Service agent; a school-board trustee; and a local high school teacher, to name a few.

“Our message is simple: I’ve learned a lot over the past few years about grace and forgiveness, but one thing hasn’t changed. And that’s my absolute commitment to watching out for taxpayers and getting spending under control,” Sanford wrote in an email to supporters announcing the new ad.

Sanford, 52, is the odds-on favorite, according to a Republican source in the state, but he’ll need to reach more than 50 percent in the primary to avoid a runoff. With so many other candidates, that could be tough. The runoff would be held April 2.

The former governor wasn’t first to launch an air attack, by any means.

One of his more promising opponents seems to be Teddy Turner, son of the media magnate Ted Turner. A high school economics teacher in Charleston, Turner had been running ads before he filed for the race in mid-January, and he ran them during both the AFC and NFC championship NFL games, according to a source in the state.

Turner is relatively unknown as a political presence in the state, and his ads have introduced him to voters. In one that debuted Feb. 12, Turner takes a subtle jab at Sanford: “What I’m not is a career politician,” Turner says to the camera.

Another explains that his experience as a CNN news cameraman in the Soviet Union made him into a conservative.

Two other candidates are airing TV ads in Charleston.

Chip Limehouse, running as an economic conservative, bluntly announces he’s running for Congress and promotes his conservative views and state-budgeting experience in a 30-second introductory spot.

Another focuses on World War II vets who oppose Obama.

More directly related to Sanford’s prospects, former state Sen. John Kuhn is running a 30-second ad that could stand in as a PSA for marital fidelity.  In it, Kuhn proclaims his “personal responsibility, faith in God, devotion to my family” and informs viewers that “I married my college sweetheart” while the words “committed to family” flash on screen.

Sanford didn’t need to begin airing TV ads before anyone else – voters already know who he is – but he’s not the only one who can make a splash on TV or sustain a media campaign in this crowded race.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Jan 112013

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Second chances do exist in politics, and Mark Sanford might just try his hand.

According to The Weekly Standard, the disgraced former governor of South Carolina will run for Congress. South Carolina will stage a special election in May to replace Senate fill-in Rep. Tim Scott, who was plucked from the lower chamber by Gov. Nikki Haley to replace Sen. Jim DeMint, who left to run the Heritage Foundation.

The main event for this deep red district will be the March 19 primary. The Weekly Standard’s Michael Warren writes:

Mark Sanford, the former governor of South Carolina, will run for the House of Representatives, sources close to Sanford confirm. …

Sanford, a Republican who held the House seat himself from 1995 to 2001, will announce his intention to run early next week, ahead of the Jan. 18 filing deadline.

Jenny Sanford, the former governor’s ex-wife, on whom he famously cheated with a journalist in Argentina while claiming to be hiking the Appalachian Trail, has been rumored to be interested in running for the seat herself – along with a handful of area Republican politicians considered as likely or semi-likely to jump in.

The 1st District special election will be the first federal race after November 2012, and, as such, it may draw outsized interest from analysts and political obsessives seeking a referendum on the future direction of the Republican Party after its 2012 losses. But with Sanford in the race, it could be more of a character-driven soap opera than a reflection of a political moment.

Coypright 2013 ABC News Radio

Dec 182012

Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Rep. Tim Scott will be the first African American senator from the South since Reconstruction, following South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s announcement on Monday.

Haley named Scott, a Tea Party Republican congressman from the state, to replace Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in a press conference just after noon on Monday.  Scott will also be the only black in the Senate.

Tea Party leader DeMint is stepping down to head the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation.

“He earned this seat for what I know he’s going to do in making South Carolina and making our country proud,” Gov. Haley said of Scott’s appointment.

South Carolina Republicans predicted Scott would get the seat since DeMint announced his resignation less than two weeks ago.

DeMint called Scott “a great choice for South Carolina and the nation,” in a statement released Monday.  Tea Party group FreedomWorks also had praise for Gov. Haley’s decision.

“We are confident that Tim Scott will be a leading voice to advance the principles of individual freedom and limited-government, and he will be an excellent addition to a growing caucus of fiscal conservatives in the Senate,” FreedomWorks President Matt Kibbe said on Monday.

In accepting Haley’s nomination, Scott reflected on his childhood growing up in a single-parent household with a “mom who believed that sometimes love has to come at the end of a switch.”

“And she loved me a lot,” Scott laughed.

He said at this time, the nation is faced with some tough decisions and “needs some backbone.”

“I look forward to pressing the flesh on economic development issues, having the opportunity to work on making sure that our economy in this state continues to hum like an engine and get on the team with Nikki Haley to make sure that all of America continues to hear the great things about South Carolina,” Scott said.

Scott was the first black Republican in Congress since 2003 when he was first elected in November 2010 and the first black Republican from the South since 1901.

Scott will be the fifth black Senator since Reconstruction when he takes his seat.  The four others include Sen. Edward Brooke, R-Mass., who served from 1967 to 1979 and is the only other black Republican to join the Senate since Reconstruction; Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., who served as the first black woman Senator from 1993-1999; then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., who was the first black male Democrat to join the Senate and served from 2005 until his resignation in 2008; and Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., appointed to President Obama’s seat in 2009.

Monday’s announcement makes him the first African American Southerner to take a seat in the Senate after the post-Civil War Reconstruction era.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio