Marguerite Willis John Scott

Florence attorney Marguerite Willis (right) announces at the South Carolina Governor's Mansion on Tuesday that state Sen. John Scott of Columbia (left) will join her Democratic ticket for the governor's race.  

COLUMBIA — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Marguerite Willis named state Sen. John Scott as her running mate Tuesday, touting a historic opportunity to pair a woman and an African-American on the ticket for South Carolina's top two posts.

"When I thought of the kind of lieutenant governor I wanted to run with, I knew I wanted someone with integrity, someone with a history of serving their community, someone who has been a voice for change in our state," said Willis, a Florence antitrust attorney.

Scott checks all the boxes, Willis said.

First elected to the state House of Representatives in 1990, Scott served in that chamber until 2008 before winning a seat in the Senate. Outside of the Legislature, Scott owns a real estate company in his hometown of Columbia.

"I know in my heart he's the right man for the job," Willis said of Scott.

By nominating their joint ticket, Willis said Democrats would have a chance to reflect "the true nature of our character as a state."

Scott said he was happy to join the ticket.

"South Carolina is lucky you're running," Scott told Willis at a news conference outside the Governor's Mansion, praising her business background and grasp of policy issues. "And as Marvin Gaye said, 'It takes two.'"

Until U.S. Sen. Tim Scott won his Senate seat in 2014, South Carolina had not elected a black candidate statewide since Reconstruction. Republican Nikki Haley, now serving as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, became the state's first female governor when she won the 2010 race. 

Willis is the second candidate for governor to name a running mate ahead of the June 12 primary elections. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster selected Travelers Rest businesswoman Pamela Evette in November.

Candidates are not required by law to choose a running mate until August. This is the first election that puts governor and lieutenant governor on the same ticket, a change approved by voters in 2012. 

Two other Democrats are running against Willis for the party's nomination: state Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, and Charleston businessman Phil Noble. Four Republicans are challenging McMaster in the Republican primary.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina statehouse and congressional delegation. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.