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Politics: Campaign ready to move beyond stem cells – almost

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

There are other issues in the race for S.C House District 108, and the candidates say they want to talk about them. But the Democratic challenger, Vida Miller, says Republican state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch first needs to explain the status of a federal charge that a company he once owned misbranded stem cells shipped from Charleston to Texas.

It’s an issue that resonates with voters in a race that the Miller campaign says has their candidate within one or two points of the incumbent. Beyond that, Miller said she’s eager to talk about education and senior issues.

Goldfinch doubts the Miller campaign has any other issues, “which is disappointing,” he said. But added that he’s willing to talk about the stem cell charge “until I’m blue in the face,” if that’s what the Democrats want to do.

The charge, filed in November 2013, says that stem cells harvested by Goldfinch’s company from umbilical cord blood from 2006 through 2008 were sold to a man in Texas who used them for “unapproved procedures.” As owner of the company, Caledonia Consulting, Goldfinch is responsible for “introduction into interstate commerce stem cells that were misbranded in that the stem cells and packaging did not contain directions for use,” according to the criminal complaint.

Goldfinch said at the time he would plead guilty and accept probation. The misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $100,000 fine. He said this week his story hasn’t changed.

“I will plead guilty. I don’t know what more they want me to say,” Goldfinch said. “I had an employee who did the wrong thing. I take responsibility for him, for a poor hiring decision.”

Miller called Goldfinch’s comments about the charge a “clear pattern of deception” in a letter this week to Gov. Nikki Haley. She asked Haley not to endorse Goldfinch during a campaign visit scheduled today at Pawleys Island. “I don’t see how a governor who has campaigned so hard for ethics reform could even consider endorsing a state legislator who is facing a federal criminal charge, and flat out refuses to tell the truth about it,” Miller wrote Haley.

The campaign rally at Nosh restaurant in the Hammock Shops also includes U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Tom Rice.

Goldfinch said he has been consistent in his account of the stem cell charge, even though he claimed in a Twitter exchange that he “was never charged.” No hearing has been held in the case, he said. He got a call last year from a U.S. attorney offering him probation if he pleaded guilty. “Then, a year of nothing,” Goldfinch said. “If they scheduled a hearing tomorrow, I would take responsibility.”

“Guys, you’ve got to come up with some better issues than that,” he added to hypothetical Democrats. “These are campaign issues when voters don’t know the truth,” Miller said. “Show us the status, the true status.”

The misbranding charge is a serious matter, she said. “There should have been better oversight of his company,” Miller said. “The reason we brought this back up is Mr. Goldfinch says a federal charge is not a campaign issue.”

The top issue in the Goldfinch campaign’s polls is effectiveness. “People want to know who’s going to be effective in Columbia,” Goldfinch said. Those polls also show the candidate is “strong” in a solidly Republican district. “And that’s after all the trash they’ve been talking,” he added.

Goldfinch plans to stress the role he can play in a legislature that’s dominated by the GOP. “A Democrat like Vida can’t come in and get anything accomplished,” he said. Beyond that, infrastructure and the Affordable Care Act are also top concerns of voters, according to his polls.

Miller said she’s well aware of the issues. She served seven terms in the house before losing the District 108 seat in 2012. “The pillars of my service were constituent service and bringing attention to and funding to local projects,” she said. “My question to Mr. Goldfinch is, What have you done for District 108?”

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