COLUMBIA - Four men are vying for the Republican nomination of the lieutenant governor's seat, an office that could position the winner to become the future governor of South Carolina.
Mike Campbell, Pat McKinney, Henry McMaster and Ray Moore are facing off on June 10 for the position in the primary elections. The winner will go against Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Denmark, in the general election in November. All five candidates seek to expand the power of the office.
The men have their eyes set on working on efforts that go beyond the office's required duties, such as working with Gov. Nikki Haley to bring more jobs to South Carolina or improving the state's education system.
The lieutenant governor's position has traditionally been a launching pad for higher office, said Kendra Stewart, a political science professor at the College of Charleston.
"It's right next to the seat of power," Stewart said. "It's a heartbeat away from the governor's office."
Still, the position has been largely ceremonial in recent years. The lieutenant governor's main tasks are presiding over the Senate and overseeing the Office on Aging. All candidates agreed that the office is underutilized and underestimated.
South Carolina voters will recognize Campbell's name because this is the second time the 45-year-old has run for the office. Campbell is interested in the position because he wishes to further the efforts Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell has started with the Office on Aging.
Campbell said the experience of taking care of his father - the late former Gov. Carroll Campbell - taught him much about Alzheimer's disease and the burden caretakers shoulder when caring for an ailing partner. He'd like to find ways to create programs that can provide some relief for caregivers.
Campbell believes his experience as a small businessman will make him an advocate for their growth. He also seeks to finish government restructuring efforts his father started as governor.
"I think I'm kind of uniquely qualified to do it simply because I've been around politics my entire life," Campbell said. "I know a thing or two about, not only how to get things accomplished, but to do it well. I still bring an outsider's perspective to it because I've never held office myself."
McKinney announced he would run for the position before McConnell said he would not seek re-election. McKinney said he's not bothered by the three new entrants in the race, because he became a candidate expecting competition.
McKinney, 63, hopes to bring his experience as a successful businessman to the position of lieutenant governor. He'd like to help with Haley's job growth efforts and lend his experience to further improve the state's economic development.
"I just look at it as an absolutely marvelous entrepreneurial opportunity to go up and support a governor whose leadership I respect," McKinney said.
Through the Office on Aging, McKinney would like to address issues that plague seniors such as dementia, diabetes and obesity. He'd also like to become an advocate for small business growth through tax reliefs.
Like Campbell, McMaster has name recognition in South Carolina. The 66-year-old was elected as Attorney General of South Carolina in 2002 and served until 2011. He also chaired the state Republican Party for nine years.
He vied for the governor's seat against then-Rep. Nikki Haley in 2010. After losing the nomination, however, McMaster became a Haley supporter.
McMaster said he's interested in the position of lieutenant governor because it's one of two statewide offices that has jurisdiction over every issue and every opportunity. It's also an office that needs a person with experience, he said.
He hopes to partake in what he called a "critical time" in which South Carolina can position itself to lead the way in job growth in the Southeast. Haley, he said, has shown this is a great place to business.
"Competition is going to be fierce, but we can prevail and I think I have the experience and understanding and a record of accomplishment that makes me well-suited for this position," McMaster said.
McMaster added he would push for ethics reform to eliminate any perceptions of ethical issues in government; a move that could lead to more businesses becoming attracted to the state. McMaster also wants to use his experience in the courtroom to create a team of prosecutors tasked with going after those who exploit the elderly.
Moore, 70, decided it was his time to run for lieutenant governor when he learned McConnell would not seek re-election. Moore retired from the Army as a chaplain, with the rank of lieutenant colonel, but continued serving in pastoral ministry.
He wishes to use the position of lieutenant governor to advance an effort to move South Carolina's children away from public schools and into private Christian or home schools.
"We're basically calling on all the churches, families and pastors to withdraw their children from the public school system and to go into church schools and home schools," Moore said. "It's a school choice issue."
Moore believes the public school system is harming state's children and not educating them well. He received national attention in April, when the Huffington Post featured a speech he gave in Charleston about his thoughts on public schools.
If elected, he intends to work on a pro-life agenda. If the governor asked him to help with job creation, Moore said he'd make that an effort, as well.
Cynthia Roldan can be reached at 708-5891.