WASHINGTON — Catherine Templeton, who led the state health department under Gov. Nikki Haley and cut her teeth as an anti-union lawyer, is jumping into the 2018 race for governor.
The Mount Pleasant Republican plans to announce her candidacy formally in early January.
In a phone call with The Post and Courier on Saturday, she confirmed her intentions.
"I haven't filed" official paperwork, she said, "but yes."
Templeton stressed there are many pieces still moving in the early campaign season but said she was ready to return to Columbia to fix what she saw as lingering problems in the state.
"Everything South Carolina needs is within our grasp if government would simply operate properly and mostly just get out of our way," she said.
She does already have a prominent and deep-pocketed champion. A letter previewing her announcement obtained by the newspaper and written by Charleston real estate investor John Rivers, Jr., asks for donors to commit to attending a fundraiser for Templeton on Jan. 11, 2017.
An RSVP form asks individuals to contribute $3,500, and couples to give $7,000.
"I want her to have a significant 'war chest,'" Rivers wrote to potential donors.
Checks should be sent to Rivers at Rivers Enterprises and made payable to "Templeton for Governor," according to the form.
"I have known every Governor since Fritz Hollings ... until now," Rivers wrote in his letter. "Catherine is as well qualified if not better qualified than all of them to discharge the responsibilities afforded the Governor of South Carolina."
The letter includes the line "save the date" Jan. 11 "to celebrate her announcement."
Templeton previously served as the head of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. She also was the state Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation director, appointed by Haley. She gained some attention for her strong opposition to unions, a politically popular position among Republicans in the past election cycles.
Templeton has never held elected political office but her campaign would set up the opportunity of South Carolina having two female chief executives in a row. For now she is the third candidate to declare a campaign in what could become a crowded field to succeed Haley.
Former lieutenant governor Yancy McGill and state Rep. Tommy Pope have previously stated they are running, while several others are mulling bids, including current Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy are also said to be considering a bid for governor and lieutenant governor on a joint ticket — a powerhouse team that could make other GOP gubernatorial campaigns untenable.
McMaster was said to be on the short list for attorney general in President-elect Donald Trump's administration, but McMaster was officially passed up for that job Friday, clearing him to run for the top job in state politics.
Other Republicans in the early 2018 conversation or thinking about running are U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land, Columbia real estate developer Bill Stern and S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.