COLUMBIA - Don Toole has known Tommy Moore long enough to form a strong opinion.
He likes Tommy, the high school buddy.
And he likes Sen. Moore of Clearwater, the Democratic candidate for governor.
"He's been able to work with people," said Mr. Toole, 56, a Clearwater real estate appraiser. "When I've seen Gov. Sanford ... instead of trying to work with the Legislature, he's trying to work against the Legislature."
Back when the Clearwater men first met, "governor" wasn't quite what Mr. Moore had in mind.
"I can tell you, 10 years old, I had an elementary, fifth-grade teacher that was really an avid South Carolina history buff. She read stories to us, or read history to us, and I told her that I was going to run for the House of Representatives," Mr. Moore said. "And I did 18 years later."
"I just enjoyed it. Ten years old, on my paper route, I had people who asked me to hang posters - candidates - and I did that when I was 10 years old," he said.
Still, he didn't see the governor's mansion in his future until a few years ago.
"I saw the assault on public education," Mr. Moore said. "And the governor held a press conference and said, 'We're right where we're supposed to be,'" he said.
Thinking Gov. Mark Sanford had "absolutely no willingness to work with people to get something done ... I determined in my mind that I think I could improve this situation in South Carolina and offer myself as governor," Mr. Moore said.
He knew it'd mean time away from his family.
And he knew it'd mean time away from his company, Boiler Efficiency Inc. But, Mr. Moore said, being governor is his way of doing what many others do daily - using their talents to make the world better.
"Look, I was given opportunity - through family, through church, through community, though public education - someone believed in me enough, they had to commit themselves to help me," he said. "And I think that's indicative of what we all should be doing. If my calling is to be governor, then I certainly want to be the best governor I can ever think to be."
Winning won't be easy.
After coming out on top in a three-way primary, he began the general election season with $149,000 in his campaign bank - compared with Republican incumbent Mr. Sanford's $4.2 million.
The two men each raised $1.5 million, however, over the past three months, and several highly visible Republicans have formed Republicans for Tommy Moore.
They've rallied in part in support of the Clearwater senator, and they've rallied in part as a rejection of Mr. Sanford, who often is criticized, even by members of his own party, for having a contentious relationship with lawmakers. That relationship was highlighted by the 2004 incident in which he brought pigs into the Statehouse to protest pork barrel spending.
Bettis Rainsford, of Edgefield, said that, in previous elections, he had contributed to Mr. Sanford's campaign.
Now, he's a co-chairman of Republicans for Tommy Moore.
"Tommy is a solid, middle-of-the-road, almost conservative Democrat, works hard every day, is always open to new ideas and works hard to try to better his community," Mr. Rainsford said. "I have had many people involved in state government tell me that Tommy Moore is, by far, the most effective member of the Legislature in bringing Democrats and Republicans together to make good progress in South Carolina."
If he wins Nov. 7, the man who decades ago dreamed of being part of the House of Representatives knows how he'd like to be remembered after he leaves the governor's office.
"Here's a governor who knew that the most vulnerable in this state, the children and the elderly, need attention. They need care, they need commitment. Here's a guy who'll never forget that he came from a mill village and people cared about him and he cared about others," Mr. Moore said.
Then, Mr. Moore laughed, "And on the tombstone, 'He never brought pigs to the Statehouse.'"
Reach Kirsten Singleton at (803) 414-6611 or email@example.com.
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