SCGOP Cruz – Texas U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz will headline (The State) the state Republican Party’s annual Silver Elephant Celebration in Columbia on May 3, unnamed SCGOP sources said Monday. The conservative Senator elected last year is considered by many to be a 2016 Republican presidential contender. Vice President Joe Biden will speak to state Democrats gathered in Columbia on the same day.

Speaking?One lucky group of USC grads will hear from former United State Defense Secretary and Central Intelligence Agency director Robert Gates during their commencement in May, the other will hear from local country music singer-songwriter Darius Rucker. In other news, South Carolina State University said Monday that U.S. Sen. Tim Scott will speak at a school academic recognition ceremony set to be held on April 2.

Table set for Sanford? – The Tuesday runoff for the 1st District Republican nomination appears to be Mark Sanford’s to lose (Wa Po), according to national media reports (Roll Call). A runoff victory over Curtis Bostic would be one more hurdle cleared on the road to ex-Gov. Mark Sanford’s political comeback as he would be set for a general election contest with Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch and Green Party nom Eugene Platt. After all, Thomas Ravenel did announce his endorsement of Sanford (Fits News) on Tuesday, so what could go wrong?

Colbert Busch bump – Meanwhile, state and national Democrats smell blood in the water (The State) as internal polling from the Elizabeth Colbert Busch campaign shows her narrowly leading (CP) Mark Sanford and Curtis Bostic. Sanford returning to national news, combined with Nikki Haley’s low approval ratings in recent polls, could make for an opportunity (National Journal) for Democrats in the state.

E. Bay Fire – Crews continued to work (CP) a structure fire Tuesday morning that consumed the upper floors of the 312 E. Bay St., which houses The Brick, Speakeasy, Light, and Squeeze, around 1 A.M. Initial reports are that the building was fully evacuated and nobody was hurt.

Enrollin’ – Haley administration officials said Monday afternoon (The State) that after the Sunday deadline to sign up for free Experian credit protection in response to September 2012’s hacking scandal, 1.4 million taxpayers had taken advantage of the offer for state-funded coverage.

SLED crime report – The State Law Enforcement Division’s 2011 Crime in South Carolina report, released Monday (The State), shows that while overall violent crime rates dropped two years ago, the state’s murder rate went up (AP). The S.C. overall violent crime rate remains higher than the nation as a whole, a trend that’s mostly held true since 1975, SLED says.

Going up… maybe – Apparently there are elevators in the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, and apparently “they’re still not working,” according to state DOT officials responding to the Post and Courier’s request to venture to the top of the bridge to photograph this weekend’s Bridge Run.