John Meadors, a Columbia attorney with years of experience as a prosecutor, said Monday he is mounting a petition drive to run for 5th Circuit solicitor in the Nov. 6 general election.
Embattled incumbent Solicitor Dan Johnson is seeking his third four-year term in that office. He faces opposition in the June 12 Democratic primary from Columbia attorney Bryan Gipson.
Johnson ran unopposed four years ago. But, since March, numerous news reports have questioned spending of millions of dollars by Johnson's office. The FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division are investigating that spending.
The 5th Circuit solicitor is the top law enforcement official in Richland and Kershaw counties. The office is in charge of prosecuting nearly all criminal cases in those counties, from murders to drunken driving cases. The job pays $141,300 a year.
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To get on the November ballot, Meadors will have to gather 10,000 signatures by July 16.
"It's time that a career prosecutor led the office," Meadors, 56, said Monday.
From 1987 to 2010, Meadors spent a total of about 20 years as a prosecutor with the 5th Circuit solicitor's office, working his way up from assistant solicitor to deputy solicitor. He worked under three solicitors — the late Jim Anders, and Dick Harpootlian and Barney Giese, both now in private practice.
Meadors also worked about five years as a S.C. assistant attorney general and was a special assistant U.S. attorney.
In 2010, Meadors ran for the solicitor's job in a three-man race but lost to Johnson in a runoff in the Democratic primary.
For the past seven years, Meadors has worked in the Columbia law firm of McWhirter, Bellinger and Associates. He also has been a part-time assistant solicitor to 3rd Judicial Circuit Solicitor Ernest "Chip" Finney III.
Meadors, a 1983 Wofford College graduate and 1987 University of South Carolina Law School graduate, said he and his family only recently decided that he should run for office.
Meadors said he considers himself a Democrat.
But, he added, "I have voted for candidates in both parties. A solicitor should be nonpartisan. Whether you are a Republican or a Democrat really has no bearing when you prosecute cases. Lady Justice is blind."