The Republican who filed at the last minute against Gov. Nikki Haley in the GOP primary is switching strategies by dropping out in order to run as an independent.

Greenville attorney Tom J. Ervin released a statement Friday saying he was leaving the primary field and will seek the governor's office by way of a petition candidacy.

"After considerable thought and prayer, I have decided to bypass the June 10th Republican primary in favor of a petition candidacy to place my name on the November General Election ballot for governor," he said.

"Like most South Carolinians, I'm a fiscal and social conservative with an independent streak. I'm running to reform state government and to restore executive competence, honesty and accountability- especially as it relates to protecting our most vulnerable children in harm's way."

Haley already holds a huge lead in the race for money and name identification, with $4.27 million cash on-hand. Ervin loaned his campaign $420,181 to start out.

Ervin, a former Democratic member of the Legislature, wasn't considered a major threat to Haley winning the nomination. But the move may play to the benefit of Democrat challenger state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden, if Ervin can pull away votes during the fall turnout.

Ervin said he would still campaign as a Republican in November, though as a petition candidate he is not officially tied to any party affiliation.

"I realize that there is not sufficient time to compete with the special interest money that both Gov. Haley and Sen. Sheheen have already raised," he added. "With the GOP June 10th Primary only two months away, this simply does not give me enough time to communicate our positive message for change."

To get on the ballot, Ervin will have to collect 10,000 signatures of verified South Carolina voters by July 15.

His spokeswoman said Friday he had no additional comment.

Haley's campaign spokesman commented on Ervin's change of status. "Our campaign is happy to run against two pro-Obamacare trial lawyers in the fall instead of just one," said Rob Godfrey.

In a letter, the S.C. Republican Party said it received his request to be removed from the ballot and would agree to strike him.

Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551