Plagued by allegations that he tried to derail a public corruption investigation into a political ally, S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson appears headed to a GOP primary runoff.
According to unofficial results with 76 percent of precincts reporting, Wilson was teetering just below the 50-percent-plus-one threshold needed to avoid a June 26 runoff against state Rep. Todd Atwater for the GOP nomination.
"We don't know if we're in a runoff or not," Wilson campaign spokesman Mark Knoop said. "If Alan Wilson is in a runoff, it will be an extremely small margin, and we're totally confident he will be successful in two weeks."
Wilson has been dogged by claims he tried to derail a criminal investigation into a political consulting firm with which he had long been associated.
Wilson's two GOP challengers — Atwater of Lexington and Greenville attorney William Herlong — argued his ties to political consultant Richard Quinn, 73, and his son, former state Rep. Rick Quinn, should disqualify Wilson from a third four-year term.
Both pledged, if elected, to root out public corruption and restore integrity to the attorney general's office.
"After eight years of Alan Wilson, voters have confirmed they want a change and want to end the culture of corruption in Columbia," Atwater said. "It’s time to get serious about cracking down on public corruption and human trafficking, and not just talk about it."
In early 2014, Wilson — son of Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson — stepped aside from the State House corruption probe, naming 1st Judicial Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe as special prosecutor. But, in early 2016, Wilson tried to fire Pascoe. In July 2016, the state Supreme Court ruled Pascoe would stay as special prosecutor.
Richard Quinn's firm, Richard Quinn and Associates, later pleaded guilty to failing to register as a lobbyist, and his son resigned after pleading to misconduct in office.
Wilson held a fundraising advantage over his challengers. He also held other advantages over his challengers, having forged links with law enforcement and victims' rights groups, and championed popular causes, including fighting child sex predators, gangs and human trafficking.
He also has supported hot-button social and political issues important to GOP primary voters, opposing sanctuary cities, transgender use of public bathrooms and Obamacare.
The winner will face Democrat Constance Anastopoulo, a Charleston lawyer, in November's general election.