COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Battling it out for a slot in this month's expected GOP gubernatorial runoff, a primary challenger to Gov. Henry McMaster is out with a new ad portraying another challenger as soft on two bedrock Republican issues: abortion and guns.
On Friday, Catherine Templeton's campaign released a new statewide ad taking Greenville businessman John Warren to task. The spot features only Warren's own words, but doesn't provide the full context of the question — or his answer. In one portion , taken in the first few weeks of his candidacy, Warren says that, "With the open carry, I need to give that some thought," referencing the proposed carrying of personal firearms without a permit. Though the ad's purpose is to portray him as unsure on the issue, he has since publicly stated his support.
The other clip features a June video of Warren saying at a campaign event, "Ultimately, you're choosing one life or the other. So, we do that all the time. I think they should have a right to choose." The spot repeats the "right to choose" portion, as the words "John Warren, 100% wrong on abortion" appear on screen. The ad, however, fails to show that Warren is speaking only about the life or death of the mother before he goes on to point out that Templeton is the only candidate who has changed her stance on the issue, citing her previous support of an incest exception.
In ads, speeches and debates, Warren has said he opposes abortion and would only consider it if the mother's life was threatened — a statement consistent with the full context of the video, which was obtained by The Associated Press on Friday. On Thursday, Warren rolled out his "Pro-Life Coalition," which includes endorsements from anti-abortion leaders across the state.
The Templeton ad release comes just days after the final GOP primary debate, in which Templeton reminded voters about what she saw as a misleading ad campaign about her. Last month, Templeton sent a cease-and-desist letter calling on television stations to take down the ads, which said she had been fired from state agency jobs, citing an article from the Post and Courier of Charleston. The spots were paid for by a third-party group that supports McMaster.
But in the same article, U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley refuted those sources, backing Templeton's claim that she left both agencies on her own. South Carolina's governor at the time, Haley tapped Templeton first to lead the state labor department, then the Department of Health and Environmental Control, or DHEC. After a total of four years, Templeton left state government, later consulting for both the DHEC and Revenue. Going off-air briefly from some stations, the ads returned to airwaves, despite Templeton's campaign saying she "won't back down" from fighting the false accusations.
When asked Friday why Templeton's campaign is seemingly doing the very thing that she decried in the recent debates, Templeton campaign manager RJ May replied, "These ads are simply John Warren in his own words." He did not respond when pressed about the fact that the words lacked the context of Warren's full answer.
Taylor Hall, Warren's campaign manager, said the ads were evidence the former agency head knows her second-place status is threatened.
"Catherine Templeton is doing what desperate political insiders do best: twist words, spread falsehoods and attack when they are losing," Hall said.