Originally created 05/15/04

GOP finds opponent for race



AIKEN - It took five weeks, but South Carolina Republican Party officials finally found a candidate to run against veteran state Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, an Aiken County Republican Party official said Friday.

McCormick County Council member Bernard Hamby, 50, of Modoc, a Republican whose district includes parts of the pricey Savannah Lakes community, will fill the vacancy created April 9 when Aiken County anti-abortion activist and abstinence advocate Susan Swanson ended her on-again, off-again bid.

Aiken County Republican Party Chairman David Nix said Mr. Hamby's candidacy must first be approved by the GOP's state executive committee, meeting in Columbia today. Mr. Hamby then has until Aug. 16 to file his candidacy with the McCormick County Republican Party, the deadline for the November general election.

"He has the advantage of being a seated county official and is seasoned in the political process," Mr. Nix said. "He will do as well in Aiken County as any of the challengers we've put up before."

Mr. Hamby's pending entry into the race comes on the heels of Mr. Moore's attempts to rescue two beleaguered McCormick County institutions, including the county's third-largest employer, the John de la Howe School. Repeated calls to Mr. Hamby's home and McCormick County government offices were unanswered Friday.

Gov. Mark Sanford wants to close the school, and the Republican-controlled House budget earmarked only about $800,000 for its operation. But Mr. Moore was able to restore $3.1 million in the Senate budget passed late last week. The budget is now in conference committee.

"I'm cautiously optimistic it will pass," said Mr. Moore, whose district includes parts of Saluda, McCormick, Edgefield and Aiken counties. "If it does not, it will be because the Republican leadership didn't want it to and they'll have to explain that. I look forward to having Mr. Hamby answer why the Republican Party doesn't want to protect John de la Howe School and doesn't want to protect children."

Because Mrs. Swanson, who also lives in Clearwater and ran against Mr. Moore in 1996, withdrew as the lone Republican challenger in a state Senate race before the June 8 primary, South Carolina election law allows state party officials to reopen the filing period to find a new candidate.

Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395 or jim.nesbitt@augustachronicle.com.