COLUMBIA — A former Marine captain who owns a Greenville mortgage company opened a campaign account Friday to explore a bid for the GOP nomination for governor.
John Warren, president of Lima One Capital, has no previous political experience. He is the second campaign novice to make a splash in the governor's race this week. Republican Gov. Henry McMaster named political unknown Pamela Evette, owner of a Travelers Rest payroll and human resources company, as his running mate on Tuesday.
Neither Warren nor any representative of his campaign has spoken with S.C. Republican Party officials about his 2018 gubernatorial bid, party Executive Director Hope Walker said. Typically, a candidate running for governor would reach out the state party to get election information and party contact lists, Walker said.
There are no online records of Warren or Lima One contributing to state elections or political committees. He sent a total of $2,500 in 2015 to South Carolina U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Utah congresswoman Mia Love and the Republican National Committee, according to federal election records. These were his only federal campaign contributions.
Warren says he is a "conservative outsider" — a popular phrase in GOP politics with New York billionaire Donald Trump's rise to the White House.
Evette described herself like that as well when she was introduced this week. McMaster's top rival so far, Catherine Templeton, is campaigning as a government outsider despite having worked for four state agencies.
"We need to clean up Columbia and end the sickening culture of corruption that infects our state government," Warren said in a statement from his campaign Friday. "Political insiders and career politicians have handed the keys to our state over to the lobbyists and special interest groups and forgotten about the people I swore an oath to protect."
He needs to play catch-up with the four Republicans vying in the June primary — McMaster, Templeton, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill. McMaster and Templeton have each raised more than $2 million so far.
Warren contributed $50,000 to kickoff a potential run, according to state online records.
Warren's company website says Lima One, which specializes in short-term loans for real estate investors who want to fix and flip homes or apartment buildings, has raised over $1 billion from investors and employs more than 60 workers. Warren told The Greenville News earlier this year that Lima One Capital started in 2010 with $1 million that he raised from angel investors. He named the company after his Marine platoon.
He served nearly four years in the Marines with two combat tours in the Middle East before opening Lima One. Warren told the Upstate Business Journal that his life’s plans were changed by 9/11, which occurred as he was pursuing a politics degree at Washington and Lee University in Virginia. He also holds a MBA from New York University.
Warren released a 10-point plan for defeating ISIS through a public relations news service in 2015 "to stimulate a policy debate." His suggestions included abandoning policies of democratizing the Middle East and freezing terrorists' bank accounts.