Democrats seek new face for state’s top job

With Lt. Gov. Nick Theodore no longer a possible contender for governor next year, Democrats could look for a new name and a fresh image from the business community to run for the state’s top job, according to Theodore and other Democratic leaders.

Democratic leaders say they are not throwing in the towel to Gov. Carroll A. Campbell Jr. because his leadership as governor is vulnerable, and he hasn’t exhibited substantive programs to move the state ahead in education, the economy and other areas.

“Who the new name might be no one yet knows because it’s still a little early,” said Theodore. “But I keep thinking back to the days of (Charles) “Pug” Ravenel, the man who ran for governor and brought a new, fresh image to the state.”

Theodore, who announced last week he is no longer considering plans to run for governor, was in Greenville today, where he spoke to the National Association of Social Workers at the Hilton Hotel.

“There could be a surprise candidate, say from the business community, in the Democratic line-up in the next governor’s race,” Theodore said.

State Democratic Party Chairman Frank Holleman said Democrats could eventually come up with a candidate from these likely categories: Democrats holding major offices with statewide name recognition; up-and-coming members in the General Assembly who show interest and potential for higher office; candidates who ran for governor in 1986; and business and civil leaders who may have gubernatorial aspirations.

However, Holleman said it will be some time before Democrats choose a gubernatorial candidate, although they consider Campbell “very vulnerable.”

Holleman said Campbell squeaked by in his win over Democrat Mike Daniel in 1986, “and since he has been governor he has had no major substantive accomplishments, such as the EIA (Education Improvement Act),” which was a product of former Democratic Gov. Dick Riley.

Holleman also said Campbell has had problems with automobile insurance reform, and most recently his clash with the House Ways and Means Committee on his proposed tax-cut package shows the governor is headed for some tough legislative fights on key issues.

Campbell and his press secretary, Tucker Eskew, were in route to Charleston early today and unavailable for comment.

“Campbell’s tax-cut proposal is beginning to show up as a liability for the average family, which would realize less than 20 cents a week from it,” Holleman said. “In other words, under the Campbell proposal the governor would give you two dimes and ask for change.”

Billy Webster IV, chairman of the Greenville County Democratic Party, said Campbell’s administration as governor has been “largely one of perception with little substance.”

Webster said Campbell has done an excellent job with public relations and his achievements have mainly been in economic development.

“But economic development is not something Gov. Campbell started because every governor is involved in that,” he said.