gubernatorial candidates gov governor's race

Candidates for South Carolina governor, from left to right, top to bottom in alphabetical order: Kevin Bryant (Republican), Yancey McGill (R), Henry McMaster (R), Phil Noble (Democrat), James Smith (D), Catherine Templeton (R), John Warren (R) and Marguerite Willis (D). Provided

COLUMBIA — Republican Gov. Henry McMaster continued to lead in fundraising for the 2018 campaign while his chief GOP rival built a solid war chest and a newcomer threw in more than a half-million dollars to jump-start his bid.

The latest campaign disclosure data shows South Carolina's Republican gubernatorial primary hopefuls have nearly $6 million in the bank with the primary nine weeks away.   

McMaster raised the most among the eight candidates during the first three months of the year, collecting $741,000, his campaign said.

The former state attorney general and lieutenant governor had nearly $3 million in the bank as of March 31. About 75 percent of his contributions came from South Carolina.  

McMaster, promoted to governor last year after Nikki Haley became United Nations ambassador, has passed the $4 million mark in total fundraising. His campaign disclosure report did not appear on the State Ethics Commission website until nearly noon Wednesday, hours after the midnight deadline.

A McMaster spokeswoman said the agency website was having problems accepting online files. 

Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, who has kept pace with McMaster since entering the race in early 2017, raised $558,000. The former two-time state agency head had $2.5 million ready to spend. Nearly 90 percent of the her contributions come from South Carolina. 

She has raised $3.3 million in her first run for office.

Like McMaster, the first round of television ads touting her bid came from an outside group producing and paying for the spots. Templeton started airing her own ads Wednesday.

The pair have been taking some swings at each other. The latest jab came from McMaster, who criticized Templeton for not revealing her complete income tax returns this week.

Templeton says McMaster is a career politician who does not understand the state's problems after holding government jobs for the past 15 years.

John Warren, owner of a Greenville specialty real estate lending firm, raised $710,000 after entering the Republican campaign in February. He contributed $550,000 of that himself. About two-thirds of his other contributions came from the Palmetto State.

Warren also spent $444,000 — including $117,000 on Trump pollster Fabrizio Lee of Florida and $93,000 on digital marketing with Stoneridge Group of Georgia, which has worked with Gov. Nikki Haley, Spartanburg congressman Trey Gowdy and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham.

The former Marine running as a political outsider had $266,000 available. Warren started a round of TV ads last week.

Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant raised nearly $22,000 to start the year and has $182,500 on hand. The Anderson pharmacist has collected $420,600 in the race, though nearly 60 percent came from personal contributions and a loan. He has been relying on traveling to local party events to share his message with voters. 

Former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, who switched to the GOP before announcing his bid in 2016, raised $8,270 over the past three months, though much of that come from himself and family businesses. After raising $479,000 overall, the former Democratic state senator had very little left in the bank — $423.

None of the disclosure reports for the three Democrats running for governor — Charleston businessman Phil Noble, state Rep. James Smith or Florence attorney Marguerite Willis — were posted online Wednesday. 

Smith's campaign said it could not upload the file to the Ethics Commission website and sent the report via email. The Noble and Willis campaigns did not respond Wednesday to questions asking whether they filed their reports.

The agency has received Smith's email, Director Meghan Walker said. Candidates are not fined until their reports are five days late.

Smith was the fundraising leader among Democrats at the end of last year, though Willis, the race's biggest earner according to income tax filings, started her campaign in late January.

Primaries will be held June 12. 

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.