Port earmark debate enters gov race

Sheheen supports dredging, prods Haley

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Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen is calling on his opponent, Republican Nikki Haley, to explain her position on federal aid for the Port of Charleston.

At the heart of the issue is a $400,000 federal earmark that that's necessary to study deepening the Charleston Harbor. Port officials have said a delay would put that state dangerously behind as others, including the Port of Savannah, continue with deepening plans.

But Sen. Lindsey Graham and retiring Congressman Henry Brown have been unable to sway anti-earmark conservatives to understand the pressing need and the lack of options. Haley has said in the past that she would refuse federal stimulus aid, but she hasn't gone on the record regarding this particular request.

A strong supporter for the harbor study, Sheheen notes that the Port of Charleston provides an estimated 260,000 jobs, nearly $12 billion in wages, and $1.5 billion in local and state revenue for South Carolina.

"There is no greater opportunity for business and job growth potential and extended future prosperity than our port," Sheheen said. "And, as governor, there will not be a more dedicated promoter and supporter of our port.

"If Nikki Haley is not for doing whatever it takes to dredge this port, Nikki Haley is not for creating jobs."

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