Politics & Government

Ex-Democrat. No money. Can he win the GOP nomination for governor?

He was a long-time Democrat, but he has an answer for that. And about his nearly empty campaign account? He’s “frugal” and raises only what he needs to pay the bills.

Yancey McGill, who turned Republican to run for governor, brought his long-shot campaign for the GOP nomination for governor to Columbia on Tuesday.

Testing his message to the First Tuesday Republican Club, the 65-year-old McGill said in his first 100 days in office, he wants to begin auditing all state agencies, including the S.C. Department of Transportation. He also wants, among other things, to figure out how to send more money to local governments and restructure the state’s Commerce Department to make sure the state’s economic development strategy helps all 46 counties.

McGill of Williamsburg County also fielded a question about his time as a Democrat – what he called himself while a state senator from 1989 to 2014 and, then, during a brief stint as lieutenant governor.

McGill said former S.C. Gov. Carroll Campbell tried to recruit him to the Republican Party years ago, but he kept the “D” by his name, recognizing his Pee Dee district was mostly Democratic.

When McGill left office and prepared to run for governor, he switched to the Republican Party, saying his beliefs long had been aligned with the GOP.

“People more familiar with him can probably get over it,” said Randy Grant, a Columbia Republican who asked McGill to explain why he switched parties.

However, Grant added, “It’s a crowded field for governor already.”

Short on cash

McGill is one of four Republicans seeking the GOP nomination for governor. S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson also are running. A possible fifth contender, John Warren of Greenville is weighing a run.

McGill is far behind in fundraising. Through September, he had raised $447,164. During the same period, McGill had spent $444,273, leaving less than $3,000 in his campaign account.

McMaster and Templeton had raised $4.3 million combined through September. Templeton had spent $202,200, McMaster had spent $447,064 in the same time frame.

McGill said “the reason to raise the money” was “to campaign all over the state.” Since the new fundraising quarter started in October, he said he has raised more money, but only enough to cover his campaign expenses.

McGill’s greatest expense categories have been “professional services” at $191,242, “payroll” at $56,046 and “auto lease” at $26,284. Event expenses, taxes, advertising, software, consultant travel, hotel and telephone expenses follow.

Most of McGill’s money has come from S.C. donors. But he also has raised money in Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, Texas and New York.

Who is Yancey McGill?

The former state senator and lieutenant governor is seeking the Republican nomination for governor

Age: 65

Hometown: Kingstree

Family: Married, three children and six grandchildren

Career: Real estate

Political experience: S.C. Senate, 1989-2014; lieutenant governor, 2014-2015. Served in both offices as a Democrat.

Education: Attended The Citadel and Francis Marion College