Mandy Powers Norrell and Gloria Tinubu

Mandy Powers Norrell (left) and Gloria Tinubu 

COLUMBIA — With the primary five weeks away, a pair of Democrats campaigning for governor appear close to naming running mates.

Columbia Rep. James Smith is expected to announce fellow lawmaker Mandy Powers Norrell as his lieutenant governor choice at a campaign event Friday in Norrell's hometown of Lancaster. 

Charleston businessman Phil Noble is reportedly ready to tab Gloria Tinubu, who ran for Congress unsuccessfully in 2012 and 2014, for his second in command.

The Smith and Noble campaigns declined comment Tuesday.

The other Democrat in the race, Florence attorney Marguerite Willis, already selected state Sen. John Scott of Columbia as her pick for lieutenant governor.

The names of running mates will not appear on the June 12 primary election ballots, but the choices send a signal to voters about who the candidates think could help lead the state as it tackles struggling schools, a changing economy and dealing with the fallout from the $9 billion failed nuclear plant project in Fairfield County.

Norrell, seen as a future leader in the state party, weighed her own bid for governor before becoming a top Smith campaign surrogate, going to party and community events on his behalf. She gave the Democratic response to Gov. Nikki Haley's State of the State address in 2016. 

Like Smith, she is an attorney and sits on the S.C. House Democratic leadership team. Norrell has been in the General Assembly for six years and introduced bills to curb teen dating violence and allow those wrongly convicted to recover money for their time in prison. 

Tinubu fits with Noble's efforts to run as an alternative to the party's more mainstream candidates.

She supported U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' upstart bid for president in 2016. Smith and Willis backed former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who won the Democratic nomination. Noble backed former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley for president.

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Tinubu, a former Georgia state representative, was the economic development director for the city of Georgetown before resigning in April. She lost twice against Myrtle Beach Republican Tom Rice in her bids for a congressional seat in South Carolina's northeastern corner. 

Among the five Republicans running for governor, only Gov. Henry McMaster has named a running mate. He chose Travelers Rest businesswoman Pamela Evette last fall.

If either Norrell, Tinubu or Evette are elected, they would be the South Carolina's second female lieutenant governor. Nancy Stevenson was lieutenant governor from 1979-83. Haley was the state's first female governor.

Names of the full ticket, governor and lieutenant governor, will appear on ballots in November after the voters pick nominees. Running mates must be named by Aug. 1.

The governor and lieutenant governor are running together for the first time in South Carolina this year in a change approved by voters in 2012.

The lieutenant governor, who had been elected separately, is expected to have a role like the vice president, acting a surrogate for the governor and work on specific projects.

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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.