Newcomer Loftis defeats Chellis

Curtis Loftis is the winner in one of the state’s most contentious races.

COLUMBIA — Political newcomer Curtis Loftis defeated the incumbent South Carolina treasurer in a testy Republican primary.

Loftis cruised to a win Tuesday after running television ads suggesting Converse Chellis didn't work hard and took too many perks.

No Democrat is running, so the winner should get the job.

Loftis is the owner of a pest control company who ran a commercial in which he promised to drive his own vehicle and called the Chevrolet Tahoe provided to the treasurer by the state a 'taxpayer funded luxury SUV.'

Chellis pointed out that Loftis isn't a certified public accountant and didn't have the qualifications to be the state's chief financial officer.

With 99 percent of the precincts reporting, Loftis had 62 percent of the votes to Chellis' 38 percent, according to unofficial results.

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The treasurer receives, invests and pays out state money, coordinates the state's banking, and deals with state bonds and bond rating agencies. The position also occupies one of five spots on the powerful Budget and Control Board, which has a key role in managing South Carolina's spending.

Loftis, a 51-year-old University of South Carolina graduate who lives in West Columbia, has said he would make the treasurer's office into more of a watchdog agency and fight against waste and fraud.

Chellis was picked by lawmakers to serve out the final three years of Thomas Ravenel's term after the Charleston real estate developer resigned from the office to face a cocaine charge. A graduate of The Citadel, the 66-year-old Chellis previously served as a state representative from Summerville.

Loftis dismissed his opponent's question about his qualifications for the office. He said that of the nation's 50 state treasurers, only one is a certified public accountant. Loftis said an accountant's skill set is different from that of an investment adviser or money manager — skills more suitable for the treasurer's job.