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Thomas Ravenel

Posted: June 26, 2014 8:53 a.m.
Updated: June 27, 2014 5:00 a.m.

A few years back, Thomas Ravenel had the aura of a rising political star in South Carolina. Though he’d lost a bid for the U.S. Senate in 2004, two years later he was elected state treasurer, a fairly meaningless position that nevertheless provides exposure for politicians jostling for higher office. That didn’t last long, as Ravenel was arrested on cocaine charges and resigned; he later pled guilty and spent 10 months in federal prison.

He’d lain low since then, until last year, when he was one of several stars of the TV show Southern Charm. But if T-Rav, as he was known on the show, intended it to be a political springboard, he chose a strange vehicle. Southern Charm was perceived by many observers as a drunken, hop-from-bed-to-bed lifestyle show that could just as well have been called Southern Sleaze. Ravenel, 51, often appeared to be intoxicated on the show, and he made jokes of his cocaine use -- hardly grist for a political comeback in a conservative state. In the show’s final episode, he announced he and his 29-year-old girlfriend were parents of a new baby girl. Throughout the episodes, Ravenel insisted he would resurrect his political life.

It appears he’s trying to do just that, announcing that he will run as an independent against Sen. Lindsey Graham for the U.S. Senate -- the same Graham who just finished trouncing a plethora of Republican challengers.

“He would probably be considered a pretty poor investment,” said Winthrop political scientist Karen Kedrowski. Ravenel’s being coy about his campaign strategy, but we doubt he can summon a plan that will give him even a small chance at beating Graham. If South Carolinians were wary of Ravenel before Southern Charm aired, they’ve probably notched their apprehension up a few levels. His entry might provide some intrigue for what appears to be an otherwise lackluster campaign, but Ravenel appears to be the longest of the longshots.

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