COLUMBIA — Some South Carolina legislators said Thursday they weren't invited to Gov. Nikki Haley's end-of-session party at the Governor's Mansion, and at least one said he was turned away at the gate.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey said the cookout outside the mansion was hosted by the governor's husband, and the Haleys have the right to decide who's invited to their home.
Michael Haley "took the opportunity to thank legislators who'd worked with and been respectful of the governor during session," Godfrey said.
Rep. Boyd Brown, D-Winnsboro, said he assumed all legislators were invited Wednesday night, but a security officer told him he wasn't on the list. He said he's not sure what he did to be excluded, noting he was invited to the mansion earlier this year after he voted to approve a government restructuring bill Haley wanted.
Whatever it was, he likely fell further out of her graces Thursday, as he offered a budget amendment that would eliminate state funding for the governor's mansion and grounds, and direct it to public television — an agency Haley wanted to defund. Saying that's indicative of the petty politics practiced with the invitation list, Brown quickly withdrew his proposal.
"It's time for our leaders of the state to grow up, and that's coming from a 24-year-old," said the two-term legislator.
House Minority Leader Harry Ott said the end-of-session gathering at the governor's mansion is a long-held tradition. As contentious as relations were between the Legislature and Gov. Mark Sanford, he said, the former governor always invited everyone.
"It's disappointing that we've now reached a point in South Carolina where we don't practice good manners," said Ott, D-St. Matthews, who was among those not invited. "It's inappropriate to use the governor's mansion as a place to score political points."
Rep. Leon Howard, D-Columbia, said he took it as a compliment to not be invited, but complained the mansion's grounds are public property and he should have been. He called the move childish.
"Who the Haleys choose to invite to their home is entirely their decision, just as how Mr. Howard chose to conduct himself this session was entirely his," Godfrey said.
He declined to say what he was referring to, but Howard has been critical of Haley's appointments as lacking diversity.
Of the House's 124 members, at least eight Democrats did not receive an invitation. Senators could not attend the party as debate continued into the night. Senate Majority Leader Harvey Peeler announced from the floor that Haley was sending over food from the party.