Haley's GOP opponent Ervin withdraws from primary - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Haley's GOP opponent Ervin withdraws from primary

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Tom Ervin (Source: kathrynwilliamspa.com) Tom Ervin (Source: kathrynwilliamspa.com)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Gov. Nikki Haley's Republican opponent said Friday that he's decided to bypass the primary and become a petition candidate in November.

Tom Ervin's decision to withdraw from the June primary comes less than two weeks after he filed to run as a Republican. The former House member and judge said he will immediately begin gathering the 10,000 signatures of registered voters necessary to be a petition candidate.

His primary departure means both Haley and Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen are unopposed as their parties' gubernatorial nominees. A rematch between the 2010 opponents has long been expected.

"We've got two career politicians battling it out for governor," said Ervin, 61. "I offer fresh leadership and a fresh start. We need a compassionate conservative who can step up and make a difference."

Sheheen has been in the Legislature since 2001. Haley became governor in 2011 after three terms in the state House. Both are 42 years old.

Ervin's name will be removed from June 10 primary ballots. His $4,200 candidate filing fee won't be reimbursed. Signatures to get on the ballot in November as a petition candidate are due July 15, said state Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire.

Campaign disclosures filed Thursday showed Ervin loaned himself more than $420,000 toward his bid. He had just $270,000 available as of March 31, compared to Haley's $4.3 million and Sheheen's $1.7 million.

But Ervin, a Greenville attorney and radio station owner, insists he's in it to win. He said he needed more time to introduce himself to South Carolinians.

"I realize that there is not sufficient time to compete with the special-interest money that both Gov. Haley and Sen. Sheheen have already raised," he said. "With the GOP June 10th Primary only two months away, this simply does not give me enough time to communicate our positive message for change."

Ervin held his first news conference to announce his bid just last week.

Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey again dismissed her challenger, saying she's focused on getting legislation passed before the session wraps up in June.

"There will be plenty of time for campaigning after the legislative session ends," Godfrey said.

Petition candidates are listed on November ballots without party affiliation. A historic number ran two years ago, after back-to-back rulings by the state Supreme Court tossed about 250 candidates off primary ballots over what many considered a paperwork technicality. Their only option to get on the ballot was to go through the previously little-used and tedious signature-collection process.

Before 2012, the last time a petition candidate won state office was 1990, for a House seat.

Ervin, a Honea Path native, was a Democrat representing Anderson County in the South Carolina House for two terms, starting in 1979, when Democrats ruled the state. He later became a circuit court judge for 14 years. Ervin said he changed parties but not his views. He calls himself a fiscal conservative and notes he was active in former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's 2008 bid for president.

Ervin lost in a 2005 Republican primary for the Greenville County seat vacated by former House Speaker David Wilkins, who resigned to be the U.S. ambassador to Canada.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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