The Democratic gubernatorial candidate in South Carolina resisted commenting on the controversy around Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation, but he admitted at an event on Tuesday that he would not have supported President Donald Trump's nominee.
James Smith, in audio obtained by the Associated Press, described his predicament to a constituent, saying he refrained from expressing his opinion because he didn't want to "get pulled into national debates that frankly undermine my ability to win this race."
AP reporter Meg Kinnard described the exchange on Twitter.
"In audio obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press, Smith — who has publicly refrained from commenting on the issue — is heard telling a constituent at a Tuesday event in Richland County that he would not have supported Kavanaugh’s nomination," Kinnard tweeted.
"Asked in the audio about why he hadn't taken a public position on Kavanaugh, Smith said he did not want to "get pulled into national debates that frankly undermine my ability to win this race," she added.
MORE: Asked in the audio about why he hadn't taken a public position on Kavanaugh, Smith said he did not want to "get pulled into national debates that frankly undermine my ability to win this race." #SCGov
— Meg Kinnard (@MegKinnardAP) October 17, 2018
A recent poll showed Republican Gov. Henry McMaster with a 20-point lead over Smith. Sen. Lindsay Graham (R., S.C.) previously said that "The ‘Kavanaugh bump’ is real," referencing senators and other political figures that supported Kavanaugh in the face of uncorroborated allegations of sexual misconduct and who have gained in the polls.
Speaking in favor of Kavanaugh's confirmation, McMaster said, "he will be a superior member of the Supreme Court. He believes in the Constitution. … The Supreme Court is not a place to make law. The Supreme Court is a place to interpret the law. That’s what the framers intended, and that’s what he understands. And we need to have him and more jurists like him — men and women — on the Supreme Court."
McMaster and Smith will debate next week before facing off at the ballot box on Nov. 6.