The nutty final week in the SC governor’s race | Palmetto Politics


A governor candidate berated a rival after a forum about stolen yard signs.

A reality TV star who linked gay marriage to mass murder endorses another governor candidate.

A commercial splices comments from a pro-life candidate to make him sound pro-choice.

CPAC Notebook (copy)

It wouldn’t be a southern political race without Phil Robertson from the A&E series “Duck Dynasty” making an endorsement like he did in the S.C. governor’s race. File

A preacher tells a gathering the governor was appointed by God.

This is what happens when competitive races in their final days meet South Carolina politics. And it could get more frantic before primary polls close at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

On the Republican side, Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, trying to nail down her spot in a runoff with Gov. Henry McMaster, launched an ad Friday that includes a snippet of her top (and fast-rising) rival John Warren saying “we should have a right to choose” on abortion.

The Greenville real estate lender is talking about choosing the life of the mother, the only abortion exception he supports, according to the full clip.

That came after Warren gladly accepted “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson’s endorsement by saying “Nobody speaks as clearly” even though the reality star has made anti-gay comments.

And in a moment of mixing religion and politics, who is not to say McMaster’s ascension to the Governor’s Mansion was not ordained by a higher power?

“He’s appointed to that position not by people, but by God,” Pastor Mitchell Brooks of Belton Second Baptist Church said before a campaign event last week per the Anderson Independent-Mail.

Some might say McMaster got the job because Nikki Haley went to New York last year.

The most-South Carolina politics-esque incident of the primary season goes to Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Marguerite Willis.

The Florence attorney was caught on a four-minute video admonishing state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, the running mate of state Rep. James Smith, after a forum in Conway over stolen campaign signs.

“That is a lie” Willis says to Norrell in a video obtained by The State newspaper. Norrell promised to look into the stolen signs after complaining, “You’re acting like I know.”

This tirade came after a forum where Norrell scooched her chair back to avoid being (literally) in the middle of a bickering match between Willis and another Democratic hopeful, Charleston technology consultant Phil Noble.

Perhaps that was a metaphor for voters who (again) are seeing South Carolina candidates snipe at each other over little things when they differ little on the big issues.

Democratic chair candidate apologizes for gaffe (copy)

Dick Harpootlian

Harpootlian running for state Senate

Dick Harpootlian, the colorful Columbia attorney and former S.C. Democratic Party chairman, is expected to formally announce his bid in the next week or two for the S.C. Senate seat vacated by Statehouse corruption probe figure John Courson, a Republican.

Harpootlian put his likelihood at a strong 9 out of a possible 10.

One of his role models in the race? Gov. Henry McMaster.

McMaster is another state party leader — he ran the S.C. GOP from 1993-2002 — who went on to occupy other office, including attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor. 

Harpootlian already is no stranger to winning elections, having previously served on Richland County Council and as the 5th Circuit solicitor.

Filing for the special election opens June 22 with a primary on Aug. 14 and a general election on Nov. 6, the same day as other races.

Courson pleaded guilty to misconduct in office Monday just ahead of the start of his trial.

State Rep. Nathan Ballentine, the only active Republican lawmaker in Courson’s district, has told multiple media outlets that he has not decided on a run. He has two primary challengers for his House seat.

Incumbent Dan Johnson and lawyer Byron Gipson bid for support in primary (copy)

Embattled Columbia-area prosecutor Dan Johnson (right) speaks at a candidates forum in Columbia on Tuesday, May 22, 2018, with his opponent, lawyer Byron Gipson. File/Joseph Cranney/Staff

Johnson accuses Rutherford of affair with his ex-wife

A public spat between prominent Columbia-area Democrats Todd Rutherford and Dan Johnson added more turmoil to Johnson’s already controversial bid for a third term as 5th Circuit solicitor.

Rutherford, the House Minority Leader, demanded Johnson take responsibility for the tens of thousands of dollars he has charged taxpayers for what appear to be personal expenses, which were detailed in reporting by The Post and Courier and are now the subject of an FBI investigation.

Johnson then accused Rutherford of having an affair with Johnson’s ex-wife, telling WIS-TV that Rutherford was attacking Johnson because “he was sleeping with my ex-wife while I was serving in Iraq back in 2005-2006.”

Rutherford, a Columbia lawyer, denied the affair and said he’s preparing to sue Johnson for slander.

Rutherford is publicly supporting Columbia lawyer Byron Gipson, Johnson’s opponent in the Democratic Primary.

Andy Shain, Schuyler Kropf and Joseph Cranney contributed.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 843-937-5551. Follow him on Twitter at @skropf47.

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