Ravenel Files for Treasurer?
Out of nowhere, former U.S. Senate Candidate Thomas Ravenel has filed for the Republican nomination for State Treasurer today, joining a crowded field that already includes former House Majority Leader Rick Quinn, State Sen. Greg Ryberg and Jeff Willis of Pickens.
Ravenel, who ran surprisingly well in the 2004 U.S. Senate contest ultimately captured by Jim DeMint, brings a number of interesting attributes to the table in the State Treasurer's race - not the least of which is his ability to self-fund his campaign to the tune of $2 million or more, as he did two years ago. Also, his consultant from the 2004 race was none other than Andre Bauer advisor and resident "Dirty Trickster," Rod Shealy.
The son of former U.S. Rep. and State Senator Arthur Ravenel, Thomas certainly suprised a lot of folks with his announcement today, including all of us here at FITS. Frankly, we saw the Charleston businessman running for a higher office come 2008 or perhaps even a gubernatorial bid in 2010.
Ravenel has been active with the SC Club for Growth of late, serving on its board of directors and penning an oped just nine days ago decrying the double-digit spending growth in the State Legislature.
But Ravenel announcing for the Treasurer's Office at the eleventh hour in a primary with two well-known, well-organized and well-backed candidates who've both already been campaigning at full-tilt for nearly a year is very surprising indeed.
Sure, the Treasurer's Office is the next-to-last bastion of Democratic control among the state's Constitutionally-elected positions and its occupant holds a seat on the powerful State Budget & Control Board. But given how close Ravenel came last go-round in the Senate race (observers say he would have beaten DeMint for the runoff nod had he bought television in key Aiken and Rock Hill markets toward the end of the campaign), his instant war chest potential and his telegenic good looks, it would have seemed a downballot race like Treasurer wouldn't have interested him - particularly with the field already so well established.
Ryberg, who has veteran GOP'er Warren Tompkins' firm running his race, has said he'll spend "whatever it takes" to win the Republican nod and take the Treasurer's Office away from incumbent Dem Grady Patterson, and has hinted at hiring the same ad man who crafted Republican John Thune's winning message over former Democratic Majority Leader Tom Daschle in South Dakota's recent U.S. Senate shocker.
Quinn, who started his campaign by building a second-to-none grassroots network, probably won't need as much complementary "air war" TV commercials and radio spots to be effective in turning out the vote. Word has it Quinn is also enjoying a very successful fundraising quarter, which he will need to keep up in order to stay financially competitive. Another strength is that Quinn has been way out in front of the other candidates on message, touting his comprehensive tax overhaul/ property tax relief plan to rave reviews on the stump while the crux of Ryberg's more socially-conservative message seems to be "I'm with Sanford."
And then there's Willis, a nice guy who's done a lot better than observers initially though he would, but who is now faced with three gorillas in the ring instead of two.
How those three gorillas (who are incidentally affiliated with the state's top three political consultants) maneuver in the cage over the next three months is certainly going to make this one of the most interesting, most expensive downballot races the State of South Carolina has ever seen.