COLUMBIA, SC — Former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster filed to run for lieutenant governor on Thursday, joining a crowded field of Republicans vying for the state's No. 2 office.
He also would be the third GOP candidate -- in addition to Charleston developer Pat McKinney and Columbia businessman Mike Campbell -- with ties to Republican first-term Gov. Nikki Haley.
Ray Moore, a retired Army chaplain, also has filed to run as a Republican. State Rep. Bakari Sellers, an attorney from Denmark, is only Democrat to file.
McMaster and McKinney served on Haley's transition team after she was elected and were appointed to State Ports Authority by the governor. Campbell, the youngest son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, was asked to speak at Haley's signing of a government restructuring bill.
Haley is not picking favorites.
"Gov. Haley has always encouraged good people to get involved in their government, and with so many good candidates running for lieutenant governor, it's a win for the people of our state," he campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey said.
McMaster, 66, was state attorney general from 2003-2011 after an eight-year stint as chairman of the S.C. Republican Party. He served as U.S. attorney for South Carolina from 1981-85. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Fritz Hollings in 1986 and lieutenant governor versus Democrat Nick Theodore in 1990.
McMaster also ran an unsuccessful Republican bid for governor in 2010. But he threw his support behind Haley and became an ally of her administration. He co-chaired the governor's ethics reform task force.
"This changes the dynamics of the race," Winthrop University political scientist Scott Huffmon said.
McMaster holds an edge in statewide name recognition, Huffmon said. McMaster lost the 2010 primary because voters pushed aside traditional candidates for fresh faces like Haley, 42, he said.
The likely lieutenant governor front-runners all could can help Haley in November when she faces a rematch with Democratic state Sen. Vincent Sheheen, Huffmon said.
"She wants to make sure her base comes out," he said. McMaster said his leadership experience in government is what separates him from his opponents. He cited helping lead a lawsuit against the Affordable Care Act after its passage. In addition to operating a private law practice, McMaster has a $60,000 annual contract with the University of South Carolina to aid in fundraising, the school said.
"There will be tough questions that come up," McMaster said. "We need vigorous conservative leadership."
He said he has the legal experience to preside over the senate and the political connections to continue winning more support for the Office on Aging built up by current Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, a former state senate leader. McConnell is not running after being named president at the College of Charleston, his alma mater.
If elected, McMaster said he would add an office to prevent elder abuse and looks forward to working with Haley, whom he said he a strong relationship.
McMaster said he visited Haley Wednesday before filing for the office. McKinney said he also spoke to Haley before running.
"She's making great strides," McMaster said. "We agree on the issues, and I want to work and help her in any way possible."
McMaster said "anything is possible" when asked if he were interested in running for governor in 2018.
"I'm interested in doing best job I can as lieutenant governor," he said.
This year's election is the last for the lieutenant governor running as a standalone office. The governor and lieutenant governor will run on the same ticket starting in 2018.