South Carolina’s governor will veto proposals to use taxpayer money to run the first-in-the-South Republican presidential primary in February, officials said Monday. Two officials familiar with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s decision spoke on condition of not being identified, saying they did not want to pre-empt her veto announcements expected Tuesday.
“She’s been pretty clear from day one in this process that in this kind of budget year that taxpayer dollars don’t need to go to pay for a primary election and that it’s the responsibility of the party to take care of those dollars,” one of the officials said.
The officials said the veto would not imperil the primary largely because of opinions released Monday and last week by the state attorney general and earlier this month by the U.S. Justice Department.
Haley had warned lawmakers to not put any taxpayer cash toward the primary. Still, the state budget would spend up to $680,000 on the contest. That spending is tucked in two budget provisions in the spending bill that Haley is considering. She faces a midnight Tuesday deadline to issue budget vetoes.
The state parties for decades ran and paid for their own primary contests. That changed in 2008 when the Legislature for the first time agreed to pick up the tab for high-profile Republican and Democratic party primaries.
Republicans here boast that every GOP nominee since 1984 has first won the South Carolina primary. That’s tempered by skeptics who point out the field is thinned or weakened considerably by contests in Iowa and New Hampshire that precede South Carolina’s Republican primary. Nonetheless, the primary draws national attention and candidates play hard here.