South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate John Warren (copy)

South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate John Warren, with his wife Courtney, speaks to supporters in downtown Greenville after losing a runoff election to Henry McMaster on June 26, 2018. Warren is selling his business as he eyes a return to the political scene. File/Bart Boatwright/The Greenville News

COLUMBIA — Greenville businessman John Warren, the runner-up in the 2018 GOP primary for South Carolina governor, has sold the majority ownership stake in his specialty mortgage finance company with plans to "re-engage" in politics in the future.

In an interview Monday with The Post and Courier, Warren emphasized he will not be a candidate for any office in 2020 — ruling out the once-rumored possibility that he could launch a GOP primary challenge against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is up for re-election next year.

He left open the door for any number of future political bids, including potentially challenging incumbent Republican Gov. Henry McMaster again in 2022, saying he has a "passion for service."

"Beyond 2020, I'm going to continue to stay heavily involved in the conservative movement in South Carolina and I'm going to continue to serve in a variety of ways," Warren said. "I haven't made any decisions on future elections."

Since Warren founded Lima One Capital in 2011, the company has grown to more than 300 full and part-time employees around the country, including more than 160 full-time employees at the Greenville headquarters. A Marine combat veteran, Warren named the company after his call sign in Iraq. 

"We have a great leadership team in place, and the partners that we sold to are going to be able to continue the run," Warren said. "Selling the company ultimately enables me and Courtney (his wife) to pursue other things from other business ventures, politics and philanthropy."

Warren said he has already been active in other unspecified business ventures since the end of his campaign.

"Even when I left the campaign, I came back as chairman so that wasn't a day-to-day role, so I've been involved in other things," Warren said, including "helping entrepreneurs get their businesses off the ground" and "helping certain large projects get capital from institutional sources on Wall Street."

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Though he won't be running for office himself in 2020, Warren said he does plan to get more involved in the political scene.

"Now that I have a little more free time because I've separated myself from the business, I will be re-engaging and will probably have more announcements in the coming weeks about that," Warren said.

Running in his first race, Warren took McMaster, a former state attorney general and lieutenant governor who had been governor for more than a year after Nikki Haley left for the United Nations, to a runoff despite entering the race later than other GOP challengers. Warren caught up by self-financing his campaign with more than $3 million while billing himself as a political outsider. 

Warren won in the GOP-rich Upstate in the runoff, but McMaster dominated in the rest of the state including areas around Columbia and Myrtle Beach where President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence held rallies for the governor just days before the election. McMaster won the runoff 54 percent to 46 percent and would go on to defeat Democrat James Smith in the general election.

  

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.