CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — An influential anti-tax group is putting money behind national conservative endorsements for a black Republican facing the son of former segregationist Strom Thurmond in a South Carolina congressional runoff.
Federal Election Commission records Monday showed that the Club for Growth political action committee spent about $54,000 in the past two weeks for third-party ads and mailings supporting Tim Scott against Paul Thurmond in the 1st Congressional District.
Scott, 44, got more than 30 percent of the vote in the nine-way primary on June 8. Thurmond, 34, got about half that. There’s a runoff Tuesday because no one received more than 50 percent of the vote in the coastal district that runs from Charleston to Myrtle Beach.
Scott has been endorsed by former GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House Republican whip. The contest could be an indicator of the GOP’s ability to diversify.
The Washington-based Club for Growth, which promotes reducing taxes, budget reform and free trade, has only endorsed 12 candidates nationwide — three of them Republicans from South Carolina.
The others are U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint and state representative Jeff Duncan in his runoff campaign in the 3rd District against businessman Richard Cash. FEC records show the group spent just under $100,000 on ads during the past two weeks supporting Duncan.
“My opponent has been backed by special interests; he’s been backed by Washington insiders,” Thurmond said Monday. “You have to ask who is he beholden to. Who is he gonna have to ask before he makes a decision?”
The winner will face Democrat Ben Frasier to replace retiring Republican Rep. Henry Brown.
Scott’s latest campaign filing, running through June 2, shows that of $416,000 contributed, about $95,000 were contributions from individuals solicited through Club for Growth.
Thurmond had raised $336,000, the FEC filings showed.
“This is a grass roots organization with members from throughout the country who are tired of out-of-control spending, out-of-control earmarks and the insanity in Washington,” said Joe McKeown, a spokesman for Scott.
He said the group, after interviewing the candidates, felt it was important Scott be elected.
He said voters don’t want to be told what to do by outsiders but “they’re wise. They’re smart. They are going to look at both records and find that Tim Scott is the better candidate.”
Mike Connolly, a Club for Growth spokesman, said the group supports candidates it feels can win.
“We want to endorse generally viable candidates,” he said. “We want to find people in viable races, races they can win and where we can make a difference.”
Cash, running against Duncan, said Monday “this one special interest group has flooded the race. Club for Growth is trying to buy the seat.”
The latest FEC report shows Cash raised about $192,000 for his campaign.
Contributions solicited from individuals through the club comprise about $82,000 of the $369,000 donated to Duncan’s campaign, the records show.
Duncan disagrees with Cash that it’s special interest money because each check comes from an individual who wrote it to the campaign.
He said he’s never received a check from the Club for Growth, but rather from its members “because I’m the identified conservative in the race.”
Associated Press writer Seanna Adcox in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.