A Republican running for governor says his rivals have something he lacks: a tie to the utilities responsible for a failed multi billion-dollar effort to build two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County.
Greenville real-estate lender John Warren is calling on his rivals to return campaign contributions they have received from the utilities, Cayce-based SCANA and officials tied to state-owned Santee Cooper.
“Their judgment is clouded by special interests, but I have a plan to address the V.C. Summer crisis that starts with cleaning house," said Warren on Tuesday in a statement.
Warren's main targets in the attack are Republican Catherine Templeton, who has received $15,000 in contributions from board members of Santee Cooper, and S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, who received at least $115,000 in contributions from SCANA, its employees and leaders before the utility's announcement last July that it was abandoning efforts to build two nuclear reactors at its V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.
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After that announcement, McMaster became a vocal critic of SCANA, saying its customers either should get the two nuclear reactors they were promised or their money back. The governor also has called for the sale of Santee Cooper, SCANA's junior partner in the deal, and forced the release of a damning report about the nuclear project.
McMaster has said he has no plans to return the SCANA-related donations.
A political novice and Marine Corps combat veteran, Warren is vying to occupy the "outsider" lane in the race for the Republican primary.
It's a mantle that Templeton, who ran two state agencies under former Gov. Nikki Haley, claimed for herself in the GOP race until Warren entered the contest last month, pledging to contribute some of his own cash to be competitive.
Templeton — still McMaster's biggest rival in terms of campaign fund raising — also has pummeled McMaster for his SCANA money.
However, Warren called her out for also taking contributions from donors tied to Santee Cooper.
Templeton has received at least $15,000 in campaign donations from Santee Cooper board members and their families, including $3,500 from former Santee Cooper board chairman Leighton Lord. Lord, who publicly encouraged Templeton to run, became a target for McMaster in the wake of the nuclear debacle, resigning as Santee Cooper chairman after McMaster tried to fire him.
Asked Wednesday during a Midlands campaign stop whether she should return the Santee Cooper money, Templeton brushed off the question.
“The issue is not that Henry McMaster took money from utilities," Templeton said. "It’s that as governor, as the person in the middle of all of those negotiations, the person who is supposed to be protecting us, he took money from their executives, from SCANA executives.”
On Day 1 as governor, Warren says he will fire the entire Santee Cooper board and push legislation to stop utilities involved in the nuclear project from continuing to charge their customers for it. He also says he would call for a forensic audit and valuation of Santee Cooper, push for the preservation of the two unfinished V.C. Summer reactors and encourage the sale of equipment on the site.