Retired Charleston developer Pat McKinney decided Thursday to drop out of the race for lieutenant governor, his campaign manager said.
McKinney and Columbia businessman Mike Campbell were headed to an automatic recount Friday for the second GOP runoff spot against former state Attorney General Henry McMaster. McKinney, the race's top fundraiser, held a 1,250-vote lead after the primary Tuesday but the margin was less than 1 percentage point, which triggers a recount.
Campbell, son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, will face McMaster in the June 24 runoff.
McKinney's decision to leave the race came from personal, not political reasons, said Taylor Hall, his campaign manager and son-in-law.
McKinney is tired after he lost his father two months ago and his father-in-law last month, Hall said. He has been campaigning officially since October, though he started the groundwork in the summer.
"He's looking forward to becoming a full-time husband, father and grandfather again," Hall said.
McKinney has no plans to endorse another candidate in the race, Hall said. Fourth-place finisher Ray Moore endorsed McMaster on Thursday.
McKinney's departure came as a surprise. His campaign vowed Wednesday to keep running against McMaster, who received 44 percent of the vote on Tuesday. That was 20 percentage points more than McKinney and Campbell received.
"I am proud to offer a clear contrast with my opponent (McMaster): I am a career businessman, who spent my life building a business, raising my family and serving my community," McKinney said in an email sent to supporters Wednesday. "My opponent has spent decades in politics and has run for statewide office 5 times. It is time for new leadership."
Six hours before dropping out, McKinney's campaign sent a news release reminding reporters of an endorsement he received from Erick Erickson, founder of the national conservative website Redstate.com.
McKinney decided Thursday afternoon to exit the race, Hall said. He called supporters, who were disappointed, he said. McKinney also called Gov. Nikki Haley, whom he consulted before running for the office last year.
"She wished him the best and he wished her the best," Hall said. McKinney was not available for comment.
Haley did not ask McKinney to leave the runoff that likely would have pitted a pair of her close allies, a spokesman for the governor's campaign said.
"Pat and Pam (his wife) have been a wonderful part of our family's life since we first met them back in 2009," Haley said in a statement released through her campaign. "Long before this campaign, Pat has given so much to South Carolina - in business, in service, and as a familyman - and I'm proud to call him a friend."
The S.C. Republican party also said it did not ask McKinney to drop out.
McKinney was the top money raiser in the four-candidate field, gathering more than two times the cash as his opponents combined.
Despite being close to Haley and spending years in development of Kiawah Island, McKinney had trouble overcoming being a political unknown in the state. Campbell collected $800,000 less and nearly tied McKinney.
McMaster said McKinney was a good man running an excellent race: "I consider him a friend."
McKinney and McMaster were part of Haley's gubernatorial transition team, and the governor appointed them to the state Ports Authority board. McKinney also serves on her foundation's board.
Campbell's campaign did not have comment immediately but planned to a release statement later Thursday.