Gubernatorial candidates, including those who dropped out of the race complaining that the recession made it too tough to raise money, had raked in $17 million through Friday, according to an Associated Press analysis of reports filed with the state. That's more than the $15 million raised by the field in 2002, reports filed with the National Institute of Money in State Politics show.
Through Friday, Republican Nikki Haley and Democrat Vincent Sheheen each had raised $3.8 million -- an unusual tie for cash in a reliably Republican state. Still, Haley and Sheheen hadn't matched the fundraising totals of the two major-party candidates in 2002: Republican Mark Sanford raised $7 million in unseating Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges, who took in $4.2 million.
College of Charleston political scientist Kendra Stewart noted that records are being set around the nation this year.
Joel Sawyer, the state Republican Party's executive director, noted that, when adjusted for inflation, fundraising for the 2010 governor's race probably is less than the 2002 haul. He said candidates probably should have raised more.
"When you consider the fact that there is not a competitive U.S. Senate race, you would think there would be more resources to put toward these races," he said.
Raising cash has been tough and appears to have thinned the middle ranks of donors -- those who give between $500 and $2,000 to candidates, Sawyer said.
Haley has seen a huge influx of out-of-state donors after her national profile soared with an endorsement from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. More than a third of her campaign contributions have come from outside South Carolina.
Stewart noted that Haley and Sheheen appear to have split South Carolina's political purse with key donors and endorsements in the business community.