Wilson, Atwater headed to GOP runoff in SC race for attorney general

Attorney General Alan Wilson
Attorney General Alan Wilson File

Two Lexington Republicans will square off in two weeks for their party's nomination for S.C. attorney general in the November general election.

Incumbent Alan Wilson will face state. Rep. Todd Atwater in a June 26 runoff for the GOP nomination, according to unofficial results.

Meanwhile, the third-place finisher in the Republican attorney general's race, Greenville attorney William Herlong, said Wednesday that he is endorsing Atwater in the runoff.

While winning 43 of 46 counties and garnering more statewide votes than Republican S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster, Wilson fell just shy of the 50-percent-plus-one threshold needed to win the nomination outright. With 99 percent of precincts reporting as of Wednesday morning, Wilson had won 49 percent of the GOP votes cast.

"It's clear that South Carolinians want an attorney general with experience and a conservative record — defeating sanctuary cities, putting criminals behind bars, and cleaning up the swamp," Wilson said in a statement. "In two weeks ... voters will make a clear choice between my record and my opponent's."

Wilson 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, and has been endorsed by S.C. Citizens for Life.

However, the 44-year-old has been dogged by claims he tried to derail a criminal investigation into a political consulting firm that he long had been associated with as part of the State House corruption probe.

Wilson's two GOP challengers — Atwater and Herlong — argued the incumbent's 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.

"Fifty-two percent of people said 'No' to Alan Wilson and said 'No' to corruption," Atwater said. "We are moving forward."

Herlong said he is endorsing Atwater.

"I think he (Atwater) will go after corruption exactly the way I’ve been talking about it," Herlong said. "And, frankly, that is the No. 1 issue, and Alan Wilson has failed all of us on that subject."

The winner of the June 26 runoff will face Democrat Constance Anastopoulo, a Charleston lawyer, in November's general election.

Tom Barton: 803-771-8304, @tjbarton83

Attorney general's race

GOP primary, 2,255 of 2,265 precincts reporting

Atwater: 100,617

Herlong: 73,120

Wilson (i):164,514
SOURCE: The Associated Press