COLUMBIA — The first television ads of the Democratic primary for South Carolina governor are hitting the airwaves.
State Rep. James Smith of Columbia will air his first 30-second spot Thursday focusing on his biography and some of his most prominent endorsements as he continues to introduce himself to voters across the state.
On the same day, Florence antitrust attorney Marguerite Willis is going up with her first ad of the race highlighting her legal background and introducing her running mate, state Sen. John Scott of Columbia.
Smith's ad touts his 22-year record in the Statehouse and his background as a military veteran from the war in Afghanistan.
"He's been a leader in the Legislature. He's been a leader on the battlefield. He'll be a leader as governor," the narrator says in the ad.
Smith also highlights two prominent endorsements from U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, South Carolina's most influential Democrat, and former Vice President Joe Biden, who remains a popular figure among Democrats in the state.
In Willis' 30-second spot, the first-time political candidate walks down a dusty rural path and says she will focus on tackling poverty and improving education and healthcare.
"I became a nationally respected attorney in a business biased against women because I refused to back down," Willis says.
Both campaigns are spending more than $100,000 on the initial buy to air their ads in the state's four biggest media markets: Charleston, Columbia, Greenville-Spartanburg and Myrtle Beach-Florence.
Smith has led in fundraising so far in the three-way Democratic primary, reporting $622,000 in his campaign war chest at the end of March.
Willis has kicked in around half a million dollars of her own money to keep pace with Smith after getting into the race late in February. Charleston technology consultant Phil Noble has lagged further behind, reporting just $60,000 on hand at the March filing deadline.
Three of the five Republicans running in the race — incumbent Henry McMaster of Columbia, Catherine Templeton of Mount Pleasant and John Warren of Greenville — have already begun airing several TV ads. With significantly more money to spend, the GOP contenders are expected to blitz the airwaves as the June 12 primary approaches.
Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.