Third-party candidates crashing SC governor's race

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH) - Voters don't head to the polls to vote for governor until November, but the battle for that office has been raging for quite some time.

Governor Nikki Haley and state Senator Vincent Sheheen square off in rematch of the 2010 gubernatorial race.

But, third party candidates like Morgan Reeves say leaving hopefuls like him out of the conversation is a mistake.

"I can win this race. Anyone can win this race," said Reeves.

Four years ago, Reeves took roughly two percent of the vote as a relative unknown. Now in 2014, the former Michigan State football player is back on the field again.

"The reason why I'm back in again, it shows a lot of character. It shows determination on my part," said Reeves.

Reeves isn't the only one on the ballot crashing the two-party system. Greenville business owner and attorney Tom Ervin is bringing some money to the race, spending it on slickly produced campaign ads that have the look of a traditional two-party candidate.

Ervin earned his way on to the ballot as a petition candidate, delivering more than 20,000 voter signatures to state election officials. He is listed as an Independent, and raised the ire of both Governor Nikki Haley and the South Carolina Republican Party earlier this year when he touted himself as an Independent Republican. Both camps threatened legal action.

"Everyone is ready for change," said Ervin. "The two major party candidates are career politicians and folks are ready for reform and change in South Carolina."

Getitng that message across isn't always easy when you are on the outside looking in. In 2010, Morgan Reeves actually was on the outside while Governor Nikki Haley and Vincent Sheheen debated the issues in a series of public debates. Even though Reeves was on the ballot, he was not included in the debates.

"I think the people of South Carolina are intelligent enough to determine who should be governor," said Reeves. "No one should be kept out."

This time around, Reeves and Ervin believe everyone will be part of that debate process.

"We'll be part of the debates. Once people hear our positive message for change and reform they're going to respond," said Ervin of his campaign.

Despite their determination, many still view third-party candidates like Ervin, Reeves and Lowcountry Libertarian Steve French as longshots on a ballot seemingly dominated by the rematch between Haley and Sheheen.

"Their goal's not necessarily to get elected. Sometimes it's to get someone else elected," said David Woodard, a Clemson University political analyst and GOP strategist. "The gubernatorial race was very close last time, at least by South Carolina standards."

And that means if any one, or all, of the third-party candidates gain any type of traction, votes could be siphoned away from both Haley and Sheheen, tightening that race even more in 2014.

"It can't be narrowed down to a two-person race for governor," said Reeves. "We have five candidates involved."