ABC News' Kevin Chupka and Jay Shaylor Report: Hoping to "speed up" his Republican primary campaign in South Carolina, Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee accepted the endorsement today of the state's lieutenant governor, Andre Bauer.
Bauer, 38, appeared on stage with Huckabee and a host of more influential politicians and celebrities backing the Republican presidential candidate at an event in Huger, SC this morning. Martial arts movie star Chuck Norris and his wife Gina were back on the trail. Former South Carolina Governor David Beasley and state co-chair Mike Campbell were their ubiquitous selves. But it was Bauer, the new guy on the block, that might be most newsworthy.
Bauer may be a somewhat powerful figure here, but he is also controversial. In 2006, the Associated Press and other news organizations reported Bauer had been stopped multiple times for speeding violations -- including several incidents when he was Lt. Governor where officers did not issue tickets or warnings. The media accounts eventually forced Bauer to apologize to voters and to walk to his state office each day instead of driving a state vehicle. And the incidents almost cost him re-election: Bauer's contested Lt. Governor's race in 2006 against Democrat Robert Barber came down to a ballot recount. Bauer won by only 3,108 votes.
According to a 2006 AP report, the lieutenant governor was pulled over in February 2006 driving 101 mph in a 70 mph zone. He was not issued a ticket or a warning by the state trooper who stopped him. At the time, Bauer said he did not know how fast he was going and did not try to use his status as an elected official to get out of the ticket.
But according to the AP: "the state Public Safety Department, which is over the Highway Patrol, said Bauer made it clear to authorities that he was the lieutenant governor during police radio transmissions before troopers caught up to him."
Dashcam video and audio obtained by the Associated Press and other media outlets shows Bauer identifying himself as "SC Two" on a police radio installed in his car. The Governor of South Carolina's vehicle is often referred to as "SC One" by the Highway Patrol.
While that incident drew public ire, it was not Bauer's first high-profile traffic stop: The AP also reported that a few months before the February 2006 speeding stop, "Bauer was pulled over in Columbia for driving 60 mph in a 35 mph zone and a police officer drew his gun on Bauer after the lieutenant governor got out of his car and approached the officer."
Bauer was also stopped the day after Christmas in 2005 along an interstate in Laurens County, SC going 12 miles over the posted speed limit of 65 mph. According to AP accounts of dashcam video taken during the stop: "After asking for Bauer's license and registration, the trooper says he recognizes the lieutenant governor then says he will issue him a warning."
After media attention and public outcry over what Bauer called his "lead foot," in 2006 he was forced to give up his "constable status," a state designation that allowed him to use police powers at the request of a law enforcement official. According to published reports, Bauer had not completed the annual firearm and legal education required to keep the status, a fact which came to light only after media reports of the speeding stops.
It is not clear if Huckabee and his campaign were aware of these many infractions. An e-mail requesting a reaction from the campaign was not immediately returned.