COLUMBIA (AP) — Former Attorney General Henry McMaster advanced Tuesday to a runoff to be the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, with a clear lead over his rivals.
Unofficial returns showed McMaster leading the four-way GOP race with about 44 percent of the vote. He needed to reach just above 50 percent to win the race outright.
The second-place finisher was too close to call between retired Kiawah Island developer Pat McKinney, 64; and Mike Campbell, 45, son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell. Both took roughly 24 percent of the vote. With less than 1 percent separating the two, a recount will be automatic. Retired Army chaplain Ray Moore received about 8 percent.
The winner of the June 24 runoff will face Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers in November.
McMaster continued Tuesday night to tout his experience. He was a U.S. attorney and state GOP chairman before being elected attorney general in 2002. Voters re-elected him as the state’s top prosecutor four years later. He has been a close ally of Gov. Nikki Haley since losing to her in the 2010 gubernatorial GOP primary.
“I love this state. I love being back in the arena,” said McMaster, 67. “I’m one step closer to going to work for the people of this state. I’m the candidate who has the experience and leadership ability to get things done, and I think the results tonight show that’s what people are looking for.”
In other statewide races, three incumbents won their GOP primaries. Neither Adjutant General Bob Livingston nor Treasurer Curtis Loftis face any opposition in November, meaning they have essentially won a second term. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers faces two third-party candidates.
Loftis defeated a political newcomer and little-funded candidate with 62 percent of the vote. Brian Adams of Spartanburg jumped into the race in late March, saying he wanted to give voters a choice. As of his May 31 campaign disclosure, his campaign had received a total of $21,200 in contributions and had just $3,200 available to spend.
“I am humbled, enthused and energized by their trust and approval — and I am thankful for the opportunity to provide proper stewardship of their money for another four years,” Loftis said in an email to supporters Tuesday night.
The office’s duties include paying state government’s bills and overseeing the Future Scholar college savings program. The treasurer is also chairman of the board that regulates state banks and lenders.
Loftis has spent much of his tenure fighting with the Retirement Systems Investment Commission, the agency that invests South Carolina’s pension portfolio, and his fellow commissioners. As treasurer, Loftis is the board’s only elected member. Adams said he wanted to take a more cooperative approach.
With 98 percent of precincts in, Weathers had 65 percent of the vote over Joe Farmer to continue his job advocating for the state’s agriculture industry. The 57-year-old dairy farmer from Orangeburg County faces American Party candidate Emile DeFelice and United Citizens Party candidate David Edmond in the general election.
Weathers was first appointed to the post in 2004 to fill out the term of an agriculture commissioner indicted on charges of taking money to protect a cockfighting ring. He was elected to four-year terms in 2006 and in 2010.
Livingston had 76 percent of the vote over 45-year-old James Breazeale to continue his job as South Carolina’s top military officer.
The adjutant general oversees the state’s 11,000-member Army and Air National Guard, State Guard and the state’s Emergency Management Division.
The 57-year-old Livingston was elected in 2010 to a four-year term with no opposition. He has served 35 years in the Guard.
South Carolina is the only state in the nation where voters choose their top military officer in a general election. However, voters will decide in November whether the governor may appoint the adjutant general beginning in January 2019.
Meanwhile, at least two Republican incumbents in the state House were defeated Tuesday.
Unofficial returns show that Rep. Tracy Edge of North Myrtle Beach lost his bid for a 10th term to former North Myrtle Beach City Councilman Greg Duckworth. Rep. Don Bowen of Anderson lost his bid for a fifth term to Jonathon Hill, organizer of the Anderson Tea Party.