Earlier this year, I wrote about the “under the dome” races currently underway to see who will lead House Committees and the House Republican Caucus next year when the General Assembly returns.

Recently, other blogs have speculated on the possible candidates to replace Governor Mark Sanford when his two terms ends.

Tonight, I’ll give you four names who are considering running for SC2. Names you haven’t heard – yet – but soon will. You’ve already heard about Mike Campbell who is “95% certain he will run”. The guys I’m about to mention aren’t quite there yet, but they are listening to folks from around the state and will no doubt have to make “the decision” within the next few months.

I consider these four friends, and I may not endorse anyone because of that fact. I’ve served with three in the House and the fourth is my constituent. Of course, before I go sharing their names, let’s remember the big “wildcard” in all this: what will our current Lt. Governor do? He’s being pushed by several folks to run for the top spot but if he passes, scenarios greatly change.

First, Ralph Norman (Rock Hill). Ralph and I were freshman House members together in 2005-2006 and I hated to see him leave the following year in his bid to unseat US Congressman John Spratt (Editor’s note: Had the RNC not reneged on their funding pledge to his campaign – due to other Republican US Congresmman being in jeopardy of losing – Ralph would be Congressman Norman today). Ralph was probably THE most fiscal conservative member of the House. While I’ve been in a small minority at times on the losing side of votes before, Ralph’s actualy been “the lone one” before on the losing side. That’s how he is. He’s principled and he has backbone. Ralph’s intentions probably hinge greatly on the Presidential outcome. Many have speculated that should Senator Obama win, John Spratt would serve in his administration. With an open Congressional seat, his name ID, and his credentials, Ralph would certainly have to consider another run for Washington.

Next, let’s talk about a fellow delegation member of mine Ted Pitts (Lexington). Ted’s served for three terms in the House and seems to always be willing to fight for what is right. He’s a tightwad too and has been pursued for other statewide races before – but passed. With a young family, you can’t blame him for wanting to focus on home first but this time he’s listening more to the calls and could pull the trigger. The “wildcard”? The race for Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee. Ted was already being pushed to run against former Chairman Walker (before Walker lost this June) and now, he’s in a good spot – except for the Democrats (and some Republicans on the committee) trying to play “the choice” card against him. If Ted loses that chairman’s race, it’ll be because of “school choice” – and that’s a shame. Surely the Democrats and the “anti-voucher” Republicans can’t forget that it was Ted who filed the Public School Choice bill (and caught grief from Republicans) which was pushed by Democratic Superintendent Jim Rex? Ted has shown he can reach across party lines to do what he feels is right for our state.

Scott Talley (Spartanburg) also has three House terms under his belt but was upset in a VERY close primary race and runoff in June. Scott’s also a fiscal conservative (notice a theme here with these guys?) but somehow got the “trail lawyer” tag stuck on him in this last race and had all sorts of forces working against him . I don’t think he’s done yet though. If he passes on Lt. Governor, keep an eye out for another role in shaping our state’s future.

I’ve served with each of the guys above and during my two terms in office have also worked with Mike Easterday (Chapin). Mike’s a former House Member (1995-2003) and, like the others, knows how to watch your tax dollars closely. If he were serving in the legislature now, I have a feeling he’d be right there with us fighting for common-sense ideas like earmark reforms, roll-call voting, spending limits, etc. More recently, he has served as Governor’s Legislative Director, Chief of Staff and Legal Counsel to current Lt. Governor Andre Bauer.

So let’s see….already there are five (or six – depending on current Lt. Governor) guys in the mix. That’s just on the Republican side. There could be others out there but these are the ones I’ve been hearing most and ones that I know are considering a possible run.

It’s way to early to handicap it. Way to early to know who finally will and who won’t make it official. What I do know is that any field will have strong conservatives who would serve our state well during their term.