Barrett running for governor
Oconee County native Gresham Barrett officially announced his intentions Wednesday to run for governor of South Carolina. The Westminster businessman currently serves as the representative for the state’s third congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“It’s no small secret that for some time I’ve been giving serious consideration to running for Governor,” Barrett wrote in his official announcement. “This past weekend, after a great deal of thought and prayer, after talking things over with my family — with my wife, Natalie and our children Madison, Jeb and Ross — and after seeking the advice of close friends, I‘ve made my decision.”

Barrett also released a short video providing his goals for the state should he be elected in 2010, detailing objectives such as fostering a business-friendly environment, eliminating wasteful spending, reforming health care with free market solutions and improving the state’s education system.

Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer and Attorney General Henry McMaster also are considering running for the Republican nomination. McMaster’s re-election account has $778,426 on hand, according to his most recent state filing, after raising $110,750 in the fourth quarter of 2008. Bauer’s account had $435,757 after raising $160,978. Their accounts can be converted to gubernatorial bids.

Barrett joins Furman University political science professor Brent Nelsen in formally announcing a bid for the nomination. Nelsen last week announced his plan to run. Nelsen’s initial campaign finance report shows $5,912 on hand.

Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden announced plans for a gubernatorial bid last month. Sheheen has formed an exploratory committee, making him the first Democrat in the race.

Rep. Bill Sandifer, who served for six years in South Carolina’s General Assembly alongside Barrett, was informed of the news last night and quickly endorsed Barrett’s candidacy.

“It’s thrilling. I’m extremely pleased that an Oconee native son is seeking the highest elected office in our state,” Sandifer said. “I’ve known Gresham since the mid-’90s. He and I were desk mates and office mates for six years, and I’ve followed his career throughout his tenure in Congress.

“In my opinion, there is no one in the state of South Carolina nearly as qualified as Gresham Barrett to hold the office of governor.”

Barrett’s gubernatorial ambitions had been spoken off long before Wednesday’s formal announcement, with the Westminster-native acknowledging his interest in the position to the Daily Journal/Messenger last March as was reported then. Now that he has officially announced his candidacy, Sandifer said he was eager to rally support for his campaign.

“Gresham brings a few things to the table. The first is he’s a true and staunch conservative. Secondly, he understands South Carolina and its unique problems,” Sandifer said. “Lastly, he connects with people and has the best interest of the people of South Carolina at heart. I’ve pledged to help him in whatever capacity I can.”

Sen. Larry Martin of Pickens predicted Gresham would be one of the strongest, leading contenders for the Republican Party’s nomination, also adding that the assumed field of McMaster, Barrett and Bauer provides South Carolinians with tremendous depth in the party’s choices.

“He will be a strong contender for the nomination. He faces formidable opposition from Henry McMaster and most likely Andre Bauer, but it will give the party, I think an excellent choice,” Martin said.

Martin described Barrett as “down to earth,” and commended his experience in both the state and national levels of government.

“All the candidates bring something a little different, but the unique thing from our point of view is Gresham is a native of our corner of the state. He’s familiar,” Martin said. “Right out of the gate, he brings a high comfort level with a lot of Republicans as someone we can get behind. He also brings a business background to the race that I think will resonate with a lot of folks, particularly in these economic times.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.