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Politics: Miller holds lead in funds while staying silent on 2012 run

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Former state Rep. Vida Miller heard a rumor recently that she plans to run for Georgetown County auditor in 2012.

“I can’t remember who was telling me that, but that’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard,” the Hagley Democrat and art gallery owner said. “I’d be miserable in an office like that all day.”

She’d be more likely to run for sheriff, she added with a laugh.

She also laughed off claims that she will switch parties and run as a Republican against state Sen. Ray Cleary.

As for whether she’ll seek to reclaim her former seat in House District 108 with a 2012 run against Republican Kevin Ryan, Miller is keeping mum.

“It’s still too early to say anything about that,” she said. But she’s not ruling anything out, at least not beyond a bid for the auditor’s office or a jump to the GOP.

Miller has $7,742 of campaign funds on hand, according to a quarterly report filed this month with the state Ethics Commission.

Miller reported no contributions or expenditures in April through June, and she’s not giving any hints about her plans for the money on hand.

If she did launch a re-election campaign, she would be well ahead of Ryan in funding.

Ryan, who said earlier this year that he will run for re-election, reported $553 in funds on hand. He started with a balance of $658 and spent $605, primarily to maintain his website and send out e-newsletters to constituents.

His biggest single expense was $200 to Habitat for Humanity as a sponsor of the Pawleys Pavilion Reunion.

He received one donation: $500 from the Berkeley Electric Cooperative Employee Fund in Awendaw.

“That’s not exactly a huge haul as far as fundraising,” Ryan said wryly. “But I’m not a huge fan of what I call the constant campaign cycle. I’d rather focus on the job at hand right now. I haven’t given much thought to fundraising.”

That’s something he’ll look at more near the end of the year, he added.

As for the funds Miller has on hand and how she may use them, he said that isn’t something he’s losing sleep over.

“With everything going on in Columbia right now, I’m not even focused on the election at all now, let alone whether she may be running,” he said.

The legislature is still working on redistricting, he said, and he’s working on projects including new requirements for appointments to boards and commissions.

Ryan defeated Miller, a 14-year incumbent, by more than 700 votes in his first bid for office last year. He has taken heat from the other three members of the county’s legislative delegation this summer for not being a “team player.”

At a delegation meeting last week, which Ryan didn’t attend, Miller’s name was mentioned repeatedly as delegation members reminded about 30 constituents in the audience of her service and leadership on the delegation. Rep. Carl Anderson, a Democrat from the western part of the county, said Ryan is at the heart of problems within the delegation and those problems didn’t exist when Miller was in office.

Cleary, a Murrells Inlet Republican, also plans to run for re-election in 2012. He was unopposed in 2008, but he has $134,200 on hand to run a campaign, according to his filing with the commission.

Cleary, a dentist, reported $28,725 in contributions this quarter, most coming from individuals, medical practices and businesses in Horry County, which makes up the majority of District 34.

“When you’ve got Tom Swatzel out there, you’ve got to do something,” Cleary said when asked about his fundraising activity. Swatzel, the former county Republican Party chairman and now a political consultant, hit Miller hard in recent years in an effort to get her out of office, and many speculated he had turned his sights on unseating Cleary this year after strong criticism of Cleary and his first nominee for Murrells Inlet magistrate.

“I do think Sen. Cleary is vulnerable to a primary challenge and it’s certainly smart for him to be raising money,” Swatzel said. He predicted being absent for votes on matters including congressional redistricting and sustaining the governor’s budget vetoes won’t help Cleary with voters.

Cleary got $1,000 from the S.C. Manufacturer’s Alliance Good Government Fund, $500 each from political action committees of AT&T and NBSC, and $250 from the S.C. Society of Anesthesiologists political action committee. He also received $1,000 from Centene Management Company of St. Louis, a multi-line health care enterprise that operates policies in South Carolina, and $500 from Takeda Pharmaceuticals of Illinois.

Cleary reported 54 contributions in all.

His expenditures totaled $12,241, including newsletter, staff and fundraiser expenses, cell phone costs and $100 in dues to Georgetown County’s Alliance for Economic Development. Contributions to the Georgetown Marine Institute, Miss Ruby’s Kids, Art in a Nutshell of Columbia and Twin City Outreach Mission of Charleston were also included, labeled as public relations.

At the local party level, Republicans still have a sizeable financial edge over Democrats. The GOP has $18,591 on hand, taking in $1,120 during the quarter and spending $316.

County Democrats have $3,152 on hand. They raised $323, and spent $752.

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