State Rep. Ted Pitts, of Lexington, said he is dropping out of the Republican race for lieutenant governor because his National Guard unit has been called to serve in Afghanistan.
Pitts, 37, is a medical operations officer who will deploy with the 178th Field Artillery in Afghanistan in January. This is Pitts' first active duty service since joining the National Guard shortly after Sept. 11, 2001.
Pitts said he will finish his fourth term in the S.C. House but will not seek re-election.
"The timing isn't perfect for me, obviously," Pitts said. "As much as I want to be lieutenant governor, a different call has been made."
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Florence County Councilman Ken Ard, Columbia attorney Bill Connor and Charleston state Rep. Tim Scott are running to replace Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer, who is expected to run for governor. Ard, Connor and Scott are fellow Republicans.
A real estate agent, Pitts had a reputation as a lawmaker willing to challenge leadership. Last fall, he lost a bid to chair the House education committee.
Colleagues were surprised.
"You kind of forget when they sign up that that stuff is a possibility," said Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Lexington. "I'm proud of him. It kind of throws a wrench in life's plans."
A handful of members of the General Assembly have recently served in Iraq and Afghanistan, including Rep. James Smith, D-Richland. Smith, based on the support of his constituents, remained in office while deployed for more than a year.
"I have great appreciation and respect and admiration for a decision like that," Smith said.
Pitts said he has not really thought about whether he will have a future political career.
"I don't know how it affects me. I enjoyed being in the House. It's been fun, and I feel like I've made a difference, but it's someone else's turn."