Atwater (copy)

State Rep. Todd Atwater, R-Lexington, speaking on the S.C. House floor in May. Atwater will face incumbent Alan Wilson in the GOP primary runoff for South Carolina attorney general on June 26. File/Jamie Lovegrove/Staff

COLUMBIA — The third-place finisher in the Republican primary for attorney general is throwing his support behind the second-place finisher versus incumbent Alan Wilson in their upcoming runoff.

Greenville lawyer William Herlong said Wednesday he is endorsing state Rep. Todd Atwater now that the race has whittled to two candidates.

In Tuesday's primary, Herlong garnered 22 percent, according to unofficial results. Wilson came out on top with 49 percent, just shy of the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.

Atwater, R-Lexington, secured the second runoff spot with about 30 percent.

The next and final vote for the nomination is June 26.

Both Herlong and Atwater centered much of their campaign messaging around opposition to Wilson. Herlong said he would do whatever he could to help Atwater pull off the upset.

"I just think what Wilson has done is indefensible," Herlong said, citing Wilson's unsuccessful attempt to remove special prosecutor David Pascoe from the Statehouse corruption probe in 2016.

Atwater said he appreciated Herlong's support.

"We've gotten along on the campaign trail and we agreed on so much while we were running," Atwater said. "His joining us is not only exciting but also obviously very helpful."

Wilson said he was not surprised to see Atwater and Herlong come together, claiming they had "been coordinating a dishonest smear campaign for months against me."

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The two-term attorney general touted his own endorsements from sheriffs, solicitors and the National Rifle Association.

"If Todd Atwater wants to boast an endorsement from a liberal trial attorney who's never prosecuted a case, he's free to do that," Wilson said. "Unlike my opponent who's embracing the swamp, I've spent my career fighting against it — putting criminals and corrupt public officials away."

Herlong rejected Wilson's claim that he has not prosecuted a case, saying he has prosecuted dozens of criminal cases but just hasn't taken one to trial. He said he has also tried around 100 civil cases.

Wilson continues to enjoy the backing of the national Republican Attorneys General Association, where he has many close ties. Chairwoman Leslie Rutledge, the Arkansas attorney general, released a statement Wednesday reiterating the group's support of Wilson.

"He knows how to do the job and he serves with an energy that is infectious," Rutledge said.

Whoever wins the GOP attorney general nomination faces Democratic challenger Constance Anastopoulo, a professor at the Charleston School of Law and a former litigator, Nov. 6.

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.