|| by Will Galloway ||
Columbia – Florence Anti-Trust Attorney Marguerite Willis became the third Democrat to enter the race for Governor of South Carolina today, joining State Representative James Smith and Charleston businessman Phil Noble.
Willis is Co-Chair of the Nexsen Pruitt law firm’s Anti-Trust practice, and is a newcomer to electoral politics. Her husband, Frank Willis, is a former mayor of Florence who ran for governor in 2006.
While Willis will start the race at a deficit in the fundraising race, she will likely invest significant personal funds to catch up to the front-running Smith. She will also likely place women’s issues at the forefront of her campaign.
In the wake of Willis’ announcement, Smith moved to shore up his support with women. He joined several other House Democrats in introducing the SC Paycheck Fairness Act, and his campaign released a list of endorsements from female leaders across South Carolina.
We talked to one democratic activist about Willis’ announcement, and the activist said that they are not surprised to see another democrat enter the race, especially a woman.
“The 2016 election motivated many Americans to run, specifically many women. I’m excited to see which democrat will get the nomination. It is no surprise that a woman would run, and not out of reach for one to be elected in South Carolina, seeing as Nikki Haley had what many would consider a successful run [as governor],” the activist said.
As we noted earlier this month, there is still significant flux in the democratic primary for governor. A full 55% of democratic voters have not settled on a candidate yet, according to a recent Trafalgar poll. Willis will be seeking to capitalize on this fluctuation.
Both Democrats and Republicans will be heading to the polls to select their nominees for governor on June 12. If no candidate reaches a majority, there will be a runoff election.
Whoever recieves the Democratic nomination will likely have a hard time winning the fall general election. No democrat has won the governor’s mansion since 1998, and no democrat has been elected statewide since 2006.
The Republican candidates for governor are incumbent Henry McMaster, Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant, former DHEC Director Catherine Templeton, and former Lieutenat Governor Yancey McGill.
This post has been updated.