Former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster easily won his way into a runoff for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor, but his opponent in two weeks was too close to call Tuesday night.
Retired Charleston developer Pat McKinney, a political newcomer, led Columbia businessman Mike Campbell, a son of the late Republican Gov. Carroll Campbell, by less than 1 percentage point with 98 percent of precincts statewide reporting.
Automatic recounts are triggered in races separated by less than 1 percentage point.
McKinney raised more than twice the amount of money as his three opponents combined, while Campbell gathered less than $50,000 in his second bid for lieutenant governor in eight years.
Columbia pastor Ray Moore, who ran to promote moving students out of public schools, finished a distant fourth.
McMaster, a state Republican stalwart who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010 after two terms as the state’s top legal officer, received 44 percent of the vote Tuesday. McKinney and Campbell won 24 percent each and were separated by less than 1,300 votes of the nearly 300,000 cast.
The winner of the June 24 GOP runoff faces Democratic state Rep. Bakari Sellers of Bamberg, who had no primary opponent, in the November general election. The seat is open because Republican Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell is resigning to become president of the College of Charleston.
The race is the last time the lieutenant governor, a part-time position with little authority, will be elected as a standalone office. South Carolina voters already have approved putting the governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket starting in 2018.
But whoever wins the Republican nomination will have a head start in the relationship expected from a combined ticket.
After working on Haley’s transition team in 2010, McMaster and McKinney both were appointed to the State Ports Authority by the governor. McMaster, 66, also co-chaired the governor’s ethics reform task force. McKinney, 64, is on the board of Haley’s foundation. Both candidates have former Haley staffers managing their campaigns.
Campbell said he has supported Haley since 2004, when she ran for the S.C. House from Lexington, and spoke when Haley signed a government-restructuring bill this year, a cause his father championed.
McMaster, McKinney and Campbell all pledged to work closely with Haley if she wins her re-election bid this year. They said they want to work on economic-development issues in addition to the performing the office’s official duties of overseeing the state Office on Aging and presiding over the state Senate with a tie-breaking vote.
They also could become governor if Haley, a potential vice presidential choice in 2016, is re-elected and leaves office early. Haley has not endorsed a candidate in the race.
McMaster heads into the runoff with at least $100,000 on hand at the end of May. The former state GOP party chairman, who lost the 1990 race for lieutenant governor, quickly raised more than $225,000 after deciding to get into the race in March.
However, McKinney appears to have the upper hand in money. The former Kiawah Partners managing partner, who has gathered $832,000 in loans and contributions since declaring for the race last summer, had $200,000 on hand at the end of last month.
Campbell, 45, brought name recognition to the race and received an endorsement from former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who finished second in the 2008 presidential primary in South Carolina. But he had only $22,000 on hand at the end of May after raising just $41,000.
Debate over the relevancy of the state’s No. 2 political office has become a hot topic in recent weeks. State Sen. John Courson, a Richland Republican who could have become interim lieutenant governor with McConnell’s departure later this month, resigned his powerful post as Senate president pro tem last week to avoid being promoted to the less-influential job.