Candidates raising big money to be South Carolina's next governor

ROCK HILL, SC — It's being called the hottest race in South Carolina politics in years. Five Republicans and three Democrats are vying to be the state's next governor.

The candidates are raising large amounts of money for their campaigns.

Current governor Henry McMaster has the most in the bank, with almost three million to spend. Challenger and former DHEC director Catherine Templeton has two and a half million in her war chest.

The other three GOP candidates trail in the money race. Businessman John Warren has $266,000 left after kicking in half a million of his own money. Lt. Governor Kevin Bryant has $182,000, and Yancey McGill has just $422.98.

While South Carolina hasn’t elected a Democrat for governor since 1998, three candidates hope to change that this year.

Columbia lawyer and state representative James Smith has more than $625,000 to campaign with. Business consultant Phil Noble has nearly $64,000 and attorney Marguerite Willis has more $540,000 – though that’s mostly from a $300,000 loan.

So, where’s the cash coming from? Not from our area. Donors in York, Chester, and Lancaster counties contributed less than three percent of all that money.

"A lot of people in the rest of the state think that as far as York County is concerned, South Carolina stands for ‘suburban Charlotte,’” said Winthrop University political scientist John Holder.

None of the candidates have bought ad time on Charlotte TV, and records show most donations come from the Columbia and Charleston areas.

We went through campaign contributions filed with the state ethics commission. The amounts given each candidate are dramatically different. Thirteen percent of donors to McMaster are CEOs or business owners. In the last three months, 698 donors gave him $740,000. By contrast, Democrat James Smith had more than 3,100 donors, but many gave him less than $50.

Holder said Democrats face a fundraising challenge, but those small givers could be an indication of who will vote.

"You've got Democratic candidates who are fundraising among individuals who can only give a little, literally five dollars, ten dollars. It does indicate a very broad base of support," he explained.

Out of state money is a big factor for the GOP with McMaster at 17 percent and Templeton at 14.

"Raising money is what gets you name recognition in a campaign," said Holder.

And with the June 12 primary approaching, candidates are running short on time to get their name recognized.

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