EDITOR'S NOTE: Filing ended at noon Sunday, setting the Republican, Democratic and third party fields for this year's state and local elections. Reporters Schuyler Kropf, Robert Behre and Cynthia Roldan point out five things we know now that it's done:
1) U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham is this year's biggest target.
If the national media descends on South Carolina this season, it will be to report on how vulnerable Republican Lindsey Graham is - or his opponents make it appear he is.
Nine candidates, including six Republicans, have lined up to take him on between now and November.
Still, University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato is giving Graham an edge toward winning a third term, saying the challengers - most of them tea party-aligned - must overcome drowning each other out since their messages run so similar: Anybody-but-Graham.
"No doubt Graham is saying, 'the more the merrier' even though he is the punching bag," Sabato added.
The first hurdle for Graham is to clear better than 50 percent in the GOP primary June 10 if he wants to avoid going to a runoff with the second-place finisher.
If that happens, Sabato still gives Graham the edge.
"It is hard to see how the runoff candidate manages to unite all the others quickly," he said, "much less have the significant resources to compete."
But, Sabato added, strange or unseen things can happen in the twists of a political race.
"You should never close the book on them before the polls close," he said.
2) The race for Education Superintendent is a clutter led by Republicans.
Thirteen people are vying for the seat. Eight of those candidates are seeking the Republican nomination and many are notable names. Two of the candidates represent the Lowcountry: Sally Atwater and Elizabeth Moffly. Atwater announced in late January she wanted to run for the seat after learning of Gov. Nikki Haley's education initiative. She received a huge endorsement last week when former President George H.W. Bush and first lady Barbara Bush announced they were standing behind the widow of longtime South Carolina political operative Lee Atwater.
Moffly has name recognition on her side: she ran in 2010 against then-superintendent candidate Mick Zais. Speaking of Zais, he threw his support to his former deputy Charmeka Childs.
Molly Spearman is one of a handful of candidates with classroom experience, having been a teacher and principal and then leader of South Carolina Association of School Administrators.
Meanwhile, Sheri Few has a sizable following based on her platform of repealing the Common Core Standards.
Four candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination, Montrio Belton and Sheila Gallagher, who threw her hat in the race last week. Others running are Jerry Govan and Tom Thompson. This race also boasts an American Party candidate, Ed Murray.
3) Haley gets a last-minute GOP hiccup challenger
Gov. Nikki Haley's hopes of having a free path toward the anticipated November showdown with Democrat Vincent Sheheen were dashed Saturday.
Former state representative Tom Ervin, 62, a Greenville lawyer and radio station owner, suddenly got in the race Saturday morning without much advance warning to the GOP establishment.
He served two terms in the House of Representatives as a Democrat before becoming a Circuit Court judge.
Ervin's announcement message said he was also "active in the 2007 (Mitt) Romney campaign and hosted a fundraiser for Governor Romney in his Greenville home."
The announcement also said he and his wife held fundraisers for the state's Republican Attorney General Alan Wilson.
Haley spokesman Rob Godfrey responded: "The governor is looking forward to the campaign as a whole because it's a chance to celebrate all the good that's happening in South Carolina."
Left unanswered, however, is whether Haley will agree to debate the newcomer or how much interaction the two will have on the Republican trail.
In addition to Sheheen, a Democrat state senator from Camden, Libertarian Steve French is on the November ballot, as is Morgan Bruce Reeves of the United Citizens Party.
4) Lots of "Mr. Smiths" out there
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott picked up an opponent in the Republican primary last week.
He is Randall Young of Greenville.
Never heard of him?
He was in a five-way GOP primary last year for a State House of Representatives seat in Greenville where he finished in dead last place, collecting just 24 votes. The Greenville News reported last week that Young's filing papers had only a Greenville post office box and listed only a cellphone that was not a working number.
Again for 2014, there are a slew of candidates and third-tier political parties in the mix with little-to-no experience or success who are trying to win local, state or federal office.
It's not unheard of that newcomers can win. Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford did it back in the 1990s when he won the 1st Congressional District seat in his first-ever run for office.
But realistically, "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" stories are an extreme rarity in state politics, especially against an incumbent with party backing, widespread name recognition and deep pockets.
But there is hope for those fresh out of the gates. If there is a patron saint of "unknowns" succeeding in South Carolina it is Alvin Greene, the unemployed ex-soldier who won the Democrats' U.S. Senate nomination in 2010 before fading badly against Republican incumbent Jim DeMint.
5) Most interesting local races
Many local politicians have a clear path to re-election, but there will be a few interesting Republican primaries.
GOP voters in Berkeley County will be the busiest of all. Republicans there will settle races between incumbent Sheriff Wayne DeWitt and challengers Brian Adams and Matt Smoak, as well as between incumbent Supervisor Dan Davis and challengers Jerry Beckley and William Peagler. There are also primaries for the clerk of court and for three county council seats.
In Charleston County, the highest profile primary will see 20-year incumbent state Rep. Chip Limehouse challenged by real estate agent Russell Guerard in the GOP primary for House District 110.
In Dorchester County, Republican state Rep. Jenny Horne faces two GOP challengers in House District 94: Franklin Smith and Evan Guthrie, while Rep. Chris Murphy faces Dorchester County Councilman Larry Hargett in District 98.
Elsewhere, S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, has no primary competition but faces two challengers in November: Democrat Mary Tinkler and Green Party hopeful Sue Edward.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced her re-election bid outside the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville alongside Governors Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Scott Walker. U.S. Sen. Tim Scott was also onstage for the event.×
South Carolina Republican Gov. Nikki Haley announces her candidacy for a second term at the Bi-Lo Center Monday, Aug. 26, 2013, in Greenville , S.C. Supporting Gov. Haley were Governor's Rick Perry-Texas, Bobby Jindal-La. and Scott Walker Wis. (AP Photo/ Richard Shiro)×
Voters in the June primary will be asked to narrow choices for U.S. Senate, state education superintendent and even the governorís race.×
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