S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson kicked off his re-election campaign Wednesday, saying his record as the state’s top prosecutor should cause voters to elect him to another four-year term.
The Lexington Republican dismissed criticism from his two GOP primary opponents that his ties to the targets of an ongoing State House corruption probe have made him an ineffective attorney general.
“There has been no one in the state of South Carolina, except the men and women in the attorney general’s office and me, who have done more to fight corruption,” Wilson said.
Wilson faces two challengers in the June GOP primary so far: state Rep. Todd Atwater, also from Lexington, and Greenville attorney William Herlong.
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Both Atwater and Herlong have criticized Wilson for distancing himself from the corruption probe after he cited a conflict because of a target mentioned in a State Law Enforcement Division report.
At Wilson’s direction, that probe initially investigated then-S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell. Subsequently, Harrell pleaded guilty to corruption charges and resigned from office.
However, Wilson’s critics say the attorney general later tried to block special prosecutor David Pascoe from investigating the General Assembly.
Wilson said Wednesday “those accusations are categorically false.”
“The reason that that individual, who is currently prosecuting this case, has the case is because I gave it to the chief deputy (attorney general), who, in turn, made the decision — and I told him that was fine — to give it to that individual,” Wilson said without naming Pascoe. “How can you block somebody when you’re giving it to somebody?”
Wilson has appealed to the Supreme Court twice regarding the corruption investigation.
▪ In 2014, Wilson fought successfully to keep the investigation going when Harrell and his attorneys tried to stop it.
If it weren’t for his “willingness to take the arrows that were slung at me” and others in the attorney general’s office, none of the details of the corruption probe “would have ever seen the light of day,” Wilson said Wednesday.
▪ In 2016, however, Wilson tried to fire Pascoe as special prosecutor, setting off a battle that again went to the state Supreme Court.
Pascoe argued Wilson did not have the authority to fire him. Meanwhile, Wilson publicly criticized Pascoe, saying he had lost confidence in the prosecutor’s ability to handle the investigation.
The court ruled Pascoe could continue the investigation.
Kicking off his re-election campaign Wednesday, Wilson focused most of his comments on his accomplishments during his two terms as attorney general. Among other things, Wilson said he:
▪ Participated in more than 50 legal actions against former President Barack Obama’s administration
▪ Established an Internet Crimes Against Children task force that has arrested more than 600 people
▪ Launched the state’s first effort to combat human trafficking, including advocating for tougher human trafficking laws.