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House District 108: Miller outspent challenger 6 to 1, filings show

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

State Rep. Vida Miller had more than three times as much cash on hand going into the final leg of the 2010 campaign as her challenger for House District 108. Kevin Ryan, a first-time candidate, closed the gap in fundraising during the quarter, but Miller has outspent him 6 to 1, according to filings with the State Ethics Commission.

Miller, a Democrat, raised $20,635 between July and October in her bid for an eighth term. She raised $22,349 in the previous quarter and has $32,636 cash on hand.

Ryan, a Republican, raised $12,995. He raised $7,799 in the previous quarter and has $8,969 on hand.

Both candidates got $5,000 from their respective party caucuses in the House. Miller had four $1,000 contributions: Brian Kernaghan, Alan and Billie Houghton, TransMed of Georgetown and the S.C. Trial Lawyers Association.

Miller will have to return the TransMed donation, since she also received $1,000 in April from the private ambulance company. The $1,000 cap on individual donations started in January 2009 and runs through December, said Herb Hayden, executive director of the state Ethics Commission.

The error was spotted by Tom Swatzel, chairman of the county Republican Party, who called on Miller to return the donation as soon as possible.

He found a similar error in Miller’s July campaign report.

“It’s already been taken care of,” Miller said.

Miller also had donations from the S.C. Dental Association, Anheuser Busch, the Yahnis Co., the S.C. Wine and Spirit Wholesalers Association, the state Independent Insurers Association, the S.C. Beverage Association, Progress Energy and the S.C. Education Association’s Fund for Children.

Ryan had $1,000 contributions from E.G. Garlock of Los Angeles, who is his uncle, and Rose Tilley of Georgetown.

Since his report was filed, Ryan got another $1,000 from the Palmetto Leadership Council, the political action committee of the GOP House Speaker, Bobby Harrell. Ryan disclosed it on his campaign website.

Ryan said he wants to make real-time disclosure of campaign finances law if he is elected. He believes his regular online posting of contributions has helped attract other donors.

Miller pointed out that a bill requiring real-time disclosure was introduced in the legislature, but didn’t get out of committee because it lacked support from GOP leaders.

Ryan has spent $4,375 so far. His biggest single expense in the last quarter was $1,486 to a Lexington firm for campaign materials.

Miller has spent $26,362. Her biggest expense for the last quarter was $11,630 paid to an ad agency in Mount Pleasant.

Posting finances online takes away some strategic advantages, Ryan said. He has plans for his remaining cash before the Nov. 2 election, but he didn’t want to discuss details.

Miller said she will “spend what it takes,” and will continue to raise funds.

About 15 percent of Miller’s funds came from groups or individuals outside the county.

Those groups “represent constituents in my community,” she said. “The checks were delivered by constituents in my district.”

The 10 percent of Ryan’s quarterly contributions that came from outside the area were all from family members.

“A lot of people are impressed and pleased that it’s coming from here in the district,” he said.

The county Democratic Party took in more than their counterparts in the GOP, but still trailed significantly in funding, according to the quarterly filings.

The Democrats show $2,558 in contributions, with about half coming from in-kind donations such as food, copies, office supplies and legal advice.

The biggest donation was $1,000 from state Sen. Yancey McGill of Kingstree, who represents the western portion of the county.

The Democrats have $2,657 on hand.

The county Republicans brought in $1,417, with the largest contribution, $540, coming from the GOP Ladies Club. The party also got $250 from Sen. Jim DeMint’s political action committee.

The Republicans spent $4,085 to reimburse the state party’s S.C. Victory 2010 campaign for phone and “field operations.” They spent $2,300 on mailings.

The GOP has $17,206 on hand.

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