As they head for an automatic recount, Pat McKinney and Mike Campbell have no plans to concede the race for the lieutenant governor GOP nod despite a wide gap to top vote-getter Henry McMaster.
McMaster, a state Republican stalwart who was S.C. attorney general and has run for several statewide offices, received 44 percent of the vote Tuesday, 20 percentage points more than McKinney and Campbell.
“The people of the state are looking for experienced leadership,” McMaster said.
Columbia pastor Ray Moore reportedly will endorse McMaster in the runoff in Greenville on Thursday. Moore, who ran to promote his plan to take students out of public school and put them into home and church schools, finished last in the four-candidate field with 8 percent of the vote.
Who McMaster faces in the June 24 runoff could remain unclear until Saturday.
McKinney, a retired Charleston developer and political newcomer, McKinney and Campbell, a son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell who ran for lieutenant governor in 2006, were separated by 0.41 of 1 percent, or 1,250 votes of 300,863 cast.
Any result with less than 1 percentage point difference triggers an automatic recount in South Carolina.
Neither McKinney nor Campbell has any plans to quit in a runoff against McMaster, their campaigns said Wednesday. The campaign has been cordial up to this point.
Campbell came close to topping McKinney despite being outspent by nearly $800,000. The Columbia businessman credited a solid debate performance and “a boots-on-the-ground, old-fashioned campaign” for his success. His famous last name also didn’t hurt.
“At the end of the day, we showed you can run campaigns with limited resources and build off a message,” Campbell said. “It’s not about who has the most amount of money.”
McKinney, who touted his business experience for the job, said he’s pushing ahead.
“I entered this race to see it through,” McKinney said.
At least one McKinney supporter asked him to step aside.
"Certainly, anything can happen in politics, but a 20-plus percent first-place lead to a yet-to-be-determined 2nd-place candidate (tells) me that we need to move forward, not expend additional time and money,” Columbia businesswoman Cathy Novinger wrote in an email to McKinney obtained by The State. Novinger, who did not donate to any lieutenant governor candidate, said she planned to support McMaster.
McKinney's camp said he is receiving mostly messages of support to battle in the runoff and even a few checks.
Whichever candidate advances in the runoff will have less than two weeks to convince voters to care about the race so they will turn out at the polls, University of South Carolina political scientist Robert Oldendick said.
Turnout likely will be very low and it will be difficult to “gin up interest,” he said.
McMaster's strong showing in urban areas where turnout is higher will pay off in the runoff, Winthrop University political scientist Karen Kedrowski said.
McMaster finished first in all but nine of South Carolina’s 46 counties, including those with the largest populations and highest voter turnout including Berkeley, Charleston, Greenville, Horry, Lexington, Richland and Spartanburg.
The counties McKinney and Campbell won were more rural counties where voters cast a total of about 21,000 votes, or 7 percent of the more than 300,000 cast in the race statewide.
McMaster is likely safe no matter who he faces in the runoff, Kedrowski said, “unless the not-McMaster vote coalesces into a real movement.”
Whoever advances also will need the support of the other candidate to be any threat to McMaster, Oldendick said.
But the time it takes to recount the vote will stymie that effort, chipping away at the time McMaster's eventual opponent has to get his message out, he said.
With Moore out, McKinney and Campbell will have to rely on each other after the recount.
A recount starts after county election commissions hold provisional ballot hearings on Thursday morning and add any votes not counted Tuesday, the S.C. Election Commission said.
The state election commission will meet at 1 p.m. Friday to certify results and confirm any recounts.
If nothing changes, mandatory recounts are needed in the GOP lieutenant governor's race and the Democratic primary for State House District 54 in the Pee Dee, the commission said.
A statewide recount would start at 1:30 p.m. Friday. Results could come later Friday and be certified early Saturday.
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.