Walt Wilkins

Walt Wilkins

COLUMBIA — In a sign of the Upstate's importance to winning the governor's race, Catherine Templeton, the Republican challenger giving Gov. Henry McMaster the most trouble, will name Greenville solicitor Walt Wilkins as her running mate Tuesday.

The pick allows Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney, to add a respected prosecutor from the region where a bulk of the state's Republicans live.

Her move mimics McMaster, a Columbia native who also chose an Upstate running mate, Travelers Rest businesswoman Pamela Evette.

Templeton, running in her first race, has kept pace in fundraising with McMaster, a former attorney general and lieutenant governor. She also is getting a boost from third-party television ads backing her campaign. 

McMaster is counting on his endorsement from President Donald Trump, a popular figure in the state, while Templeton has played up her ties to former Gov. Nikki Haley, who appointed her director of the state's public health and labor agencies.

Templeton's campaign announced Monday she will travel around the state Tuesday with her running mate pick. The first stop is her campaign headquarters in Greenville, a five-minute drive from Wilkins' office.

The Post and Courier first reported the news about Templeton's pick on Monday, citing sources. Templeton later confirmed naming Wilkins to The Associated Press. Wilkins did not return a call Monday, and the campaign declined comment.

Wilkins is known as a no-nonsense prosecutor with a conservative reputation who has been mentioned as a candidate for Congress, attorney general and governor.

Still, Templeton's choice might raise some questions since she is running as a political outsider who wants to overhaul South Carolina government.   

Wilkins comes from a politically influential family. He's the son of a retired federal judge Billy Wilkins and the nephew of a former state House speaker, David Wilkins.

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Walt Wilkins was the U.S. attorney in South Carolina for two years before being elected solicitor over Greenville and Pickens counties in 2010. He was re-elected in 2014 and is running unopposed this year.

There was no word whether Wilkins was resigning or taking a leave of absence from the 13th Circuit Solicitor's Office to campaign with Templeton.

Wilkins can seek two offices at the same time, a spokesman for the State Election Commission said.

The names of the lieutenant governor choices will not appear on the June 12 primary ballot. The nominees for governor have until Aug. 1 to submit their their running mates to state elections officials. The complete ticket will be included in November's general election.

Two of the five Republicans seeking the nomination have picked lieutenant governors, while all three Democrats have selected running mates.  

This is the first year in South Carolina that the governor and lieutenant governor are running on a joint ticket. In the past, they were elected separately.   

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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.