COLUMBIA, S.C. — The candidate slates for South Carolina’s elections were set on Friday, with hundreds of candidates meeting a noon filing deadline for statewide constitutional offices, U.S. House seats, Statehouse and local-level races. Two congressmen have drawn June primary challengers, while the other five U.S. House incumbents face major party opposition in the fall.
A local prosecutor under FBI investigation for travel-related spending filed just before the deadline. Neither U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham nor Tim Scott is up for re-election this year.
Here’s a look at some of the races up for grabs in 2018:
Gov. Henry McMaster has garnered several GOP challengers in his pursuit of a first full term. He’ll face off with Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, former state labor and public health chief Catherine Templeton and Greenville businessman John Warren in the June primary. Four Democrats — consultant Phil Noble, state Rep. James Smith and Florence attorney Marguerite Willis — are competing for their party’s nomination.
This year is the first time governor and lieutenant governor candidates will run on the same ticket, but so far, only McMaster and Willis have named their running mates. Martin Barry has also filed as a candidate representing the American Party. McMaster is backed by President Donald Trump, who visited the state to fundraise for him last fall.
The sudden retirement of U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy — a powerful GOP watchdog who built his name leading the investigation into the 2012 attacks against Americans in Benghazi — has spawned a diverse and crowded race for his 4th Congressional District seat in South Carolina. A total of 19 candidates have filed for the seat, which is considered strongly Republican, and Gowdy last won in 2016 with 67 percent of votes cast.
Among the GOP contenders are Sen. William Timmons and state Rep. Dan Hamilton, as well as the Rev. Mark Burns, a black pastor closely linked to Trump who gave a fiery speech at the 2016 Republican convention. Former state Sen. Lee Bright, known for taking outspokenly conservative stances and sponsoring a proposal to force transgender people to use public bathrooms matching their birth gender, is also seeking the seat, as are former Trump campaign operative James Epley, Spartanburg County GOP Chairman Josh Kimbrell and businesswoman Shannon Pierce.
U.S. Reps. Tom Rice and Mark Sanford are South Carolina’s only congressmen facing primary opposition. Sanford is being challenged by GOP state Rep. Katie Arrington and activist Dmitri Cherny, who previously ran against him as a Democrat. Larry Guy Hammond is running against Rice in the Republican primary.
All of South Carolina’s statewide offices are held by Republicans, but Democrats have fielded opposition candidates in all but two races. Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers is being challenged by two third-party hopefuls, and Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom is running unopposed.
Secretary of State Mark Hammond, in office since 2003, has drawn several Republican challengers in a race that typically doesn’t get much attention. Earlier this year, Hammond came under fire after the revelation that a number of laws had not been affixed with the state seal — as is constitutionally required for them to officially take effect — one of Hammond’s official duties. The race was in the news again when GOP challenger Nelson Faerber admitted that he hadn’t been truthful about his voting record and wasn’t a registered South Carolina voter until this year.
Just minutes before the two-week filing period closed Friday, a Columbia-area prosecutor currently under state and federal investigation filed his papers seeking another term in office. Authorities are investigating the spending records of 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson, who records show traveled to locations including Amsterdam, the Galapagos Islands and Qatar in 2016 and 2017 and also spent more than $32,000 from a fund intended to be used to enforce drug laws to pay for staffers’ gym memberships.
Johnson has not given details about the spending and has said through his attorneys he’s hired a third party to conduct a forensic audit.