Politics & Government

Another candidate jumps into the race for SC governor

Marguerite Willis
Marguerite Willis

The S.C. governor’s race just got a bit more crowded.

Attorney Marguerite Willis told The State on Wednesday that she plans to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination from the front porch of her Florence home on Friday.

“I just thought, ‘If I don’t, who will?’ ” Willis said. “There’s a lane open for me. There’s an opportunity. I have something to say that I think will resonate with South Carolinians.”

Willis joins Charleston businessman Phil Noble and Columbia state Rep. James Smith in the June primary race.

Willis is a business attorney with the Nexsen Pruet law firm in Columbia. A Greenville native, Willis has worked for the firm for 18 years and co-chairs its antitrust practice.

Willis said she decided to join the race partly because of a recent poll showing the contest for the Democratic nomination could be competitive.

The litigator will jump into the race quickly, joining Noble and Smith in a debate Friday night at the Palmetto State Progressive Summit in Columbia.

“When I listen to both candidates, I don’t feel a dedication to immediacy,” Willis said. “I’m not going to kick the can down the road. I’m interested in ‘micro-solutions’ that we can do right now.”

Willis says she wants to address South Carolina’s teacher shortage by identifying any “excess” money that could go toward classroom salaries and finding “alternative funding increases” that won’t raise the burden on taxpayers.

One alternative could be revenue raised from sales of medical marijuana, which Willis wants to allow, as well as expanding Medicaid in the state in line with the Affordable Care Act.

Willis never has run for elected office before, but her husband, Frank Willis, is a former mayor of Florence. Willis joked her “only political experience is riding in the back of pickup trucks in Christmas parades.”

Both Democrats and Republicans will go to the polls on June 12 to pick their nominees for governor.

On the GOP side, Gov. Henry McMaster of Columbia faces a challenge from Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill of Williamsburg and former state agency director Catherine Templeton of Mount Pleasant.