COLUMBIA — Catherine Templeton fires away in her new ad for South Carolina governor.
The new statewide TV spot features the Republican Mount Pleasant attorney shooting the .38-caliber revolver she said her grandfather gave her to shoot snakes around her family's Oconee County fishing trailer while talking about fixing corruption and wasteful spending in state government.
The ad includes a shot of a rattlesnake. Templeton aims the gun toward the ground and fires two shots. “We can’t shoot the snakes slithering around Columbia," she says, "but we will end their poisonous big government ways.”
Her campaign said she did not really shoot at a snake.
Templeton's new ad was a misfire for some. The Democratic Governors Association's chief spokesman tweeted, "This comes very close to threatening to shoot politicians."
Gun ownership remains a powerful issue in South Carolina, even after the deadly Charleston church mass shooting in 2015 and the Townville elementary school shooting in 2016 that killed a first-grader.
Major gun control efforts in the Statehouse failed after those tragedies. Many in the state say gun ownership is part of their heritage built on hunting and self-reliance.
Nearly six in 10 South Carolinians live in a home with a gun, according to a Winthrop University poll last month.
Still, 85 percent of Palmetto State gun owners favor requiring a background check for firearm purchases, even if it takes longer than three days as mandated by law, the poll found.
Templeton's new ad aims to build her resume with GOP voters in her first run for elected office. Templeton, who led state's public health and labor departments before working at two other state agencies, is running on a platform to reform state government — a message similar to the one Donald Trump used to win the White House.
She has kept pace in campaign fundraising with Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who had been in public service and politics since being appointed U.S. attorney for South Carolina in 1981. Trump has endorsed McMaster.
Templeton often references her previous relationship with former Gov. Nikki Haley, who fired off a machine gun at a Columbia firearms plant a year before her re-election bid in 2013.
This is not the first commercial featuring Templeton with a gun. A pro-Templeton spot produced by the American Future Fund, a politically active nonprofit, opens with her in hunting gear holding a shotgun.