Originally created 11/07/97

Metts, Beasley attend Lexington County GOP convention



LEXINGTON, S.C. -- Lexington County Republicans hoped for a quiet convention Thursday night, even though GOP Gov. David Beasley and independent challenger James Metts both planned to attend.

Some Republicans had threatened to deny the longtime sheriff a delegate seat and kick him off the executive committee because of his entry into the gubernatorial race as an independent.

But the county GOP credentials committee approved his delegate status, Chairwoman Mary Kerr said. "There are no problems from our standpoint," she said.

Metts' status on the policy-making executive panel was still in doubt. Party Chairman Eldon Armstrong had vowed to have him removed, arguing that Metts is seeking public office as a candidate from another party.

The sheriff, a founder of the county party, was elected a delegate by his precinct and re-elected to the executive committee.

Armstrong said he would not talk with reporters until after the convention.

"We need some time to sort things out," he said. "Just come and see what kind of convention we run. It's my hope that it will be peaceful."

Beasley, the keynote speaker, also has questioned Metts' party credentials. Metts' claim that he is a Republican seeking the nomination by petition "won't fly," the governor said.

"We'll let the people decide whether that flies or not," Metts said Wednesday. "My candidacy today is in the hands of the people of South Carolina. I've been a lifelong Republican. David Beasley is a recent convert."

Beasley switched parties in late 1991.

In addition to listening to speeches and acting on resolutions, the 250 delegates were to elect a new county GOP chairman.

The leading candidate was Tommy Windsor, 25, who left his job in the state attorney general's office last week after slurring gays and blacks in what he said was a satirical computer message.

Metts said the convention could prove dull.

"I'm certainly not planning anything. I'm not going to promote my candidacy," he said. "I'm going to exercise my rights as a delegate speaking for and against resolutions and voting for a new chairman."

But should someone try to punish him, Metts said, "I'm prepared to fight."