Former GOP Official Once Convicted Of Drug Trafficking To Run For U.S. Senate

In this photo provided by the East Hampton Village Police Department Wednesday, July 24, 2013, former South Carolina state tr
In this photo provided by the East Hampton Village Police Department Wednesday, July 24, 2013, former South Carolina state treasurer and multimillionaire Thomas Ravenel is shown after he was arrested and charged with drunken driving in the Hamptons in New York. Police say the 50-year-old Ravenel was arrested around 2:30 a.m. Monday in East Hampton Village. (AP Photo, East Hampton Village Police Department)

By Harriet McLeod

CHARLESTON, S.C., July 14 (Reuters) - Thomas Ravenel, a former Republican state treasurer in South Carolina who was convicted of drug trafficking and starred in a reality television series, filed a petition on Monday to run as an independent candidate for U.S. Senate, state officials said.

Ravenel, a cast member on Bravo's "Southern Charm" show this spring, collected about 16,500 signatures, more than the 10,000 required by the state to get his name added to the ballot in November, the South Carolina State Election Commission said.

Ravenel, a 51-year-old real estate developer who said he supports limited government, faces long odds against two-term Republican incumbent Lindsey Graham, who easily won his party's nomination last month and has raised more than $9 million.

Ravenel, who had vowed to run if Republican voters nominated Graham, said he planned to challenge "a failed two-party system" and accused the hawkish senator of helping terrorists.

"I want to offer people a real choice, not a false choice between a warfare state and a welfare state," Ravenel said. "Terrorists rely on politicians like him to engage in fear mongering and incite governments to overreact."

Graham press secretary Kevin Bishop declined to comment.

Ravenel resigned from his state office in 2007 after being charged with federal drug trafficking offenses for sharing cocaine with friends. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced in 2008 to 10 months in federal prison.

As one of six wealthy, single cast members on the "Southern Charm" series based in Charleston, Ravenel was part of a storyline about a false pregnancy scare with his girlfriend on the show. The couple later had a baby who was born in March.

The show might boost Ravenel's name recognition, but he is unlikely to win the election, said College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts.

"I don't think he has a chance," Knotts said. "His argument has the potential to resonate with people, but it's very, very difficult for third parties to get elected."

Democratic state Senator Brad Hutto also is vying for the U.S. Senate seat. (Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Jim Loney)



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