S.C. BRIEFS

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Democrat governor candidate gets backing of veterans group

COLUMBIA - A progressive veterans' group is endorsing Democratic state Rep. James Smith in the South Carolina's governor's race.

Vote Vets PAC told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Smith, who served in Afghanistan, is "the very definition of what a patriotic public servant is."

Smith was a JAG officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and South Carolina Army National Guard but resigned his commission after the Sept. 11 attacks to enlist in the infantry.

Smith says he is "incredibly honored and humbled" by the group's backing. Vote Vets describes its mission as primarily helping elect Iraq and Afghanistan war veteran candidates and educating about veterans and military issues.

Smith, Charleston consultant Phil Noble and Florence attorney Marguerite Willis face off in next Tuesday's Democratic primary.

Officials unsure when state shrimp season will open

CHARLESTON - South Carolina officials say they are uncertain when the state's commercial shrimp catching season will be open.

The Post and Courier reports state Department of Natural Resources biologists did a round of sample trawls off Charleston on Tuesday to check whether the spring shrimp had spawned and whether the summer crop had grown to good size.

Department Office of Fisheries Management Managing Director Mel Bell says that in one of the nets, only around 20 percent of the spring shrimp catch had spawned. The summer shrimp were still smaller than biologists would like to see before opening this year's harvest.

Bell says the winter die-off was significant, but a delayed spring season usually means good catches in the fall.

Biologists will do another sample trawl off McClellanville on Wednesday.