COLUMBIA — Lieutenant governor candidate Pat McKinney dropped out of the race Thursday, leaving Mike Campbell to advance to the GOP primary runoff.
McKinney’s spokesman said his decision to end his campaign is personal.
“This is not a political decision,” said spokesman Taylor Hall. “He’s spent a lot of time on the campaign. He’s ready to be a full-time husband, father and grandfather again.”
McKinney was not giving interviews, Hall said. He noted that both McKinney’s father and his wife’s father have died in the past two months.
Former Attorney General Henry McMaster had a decisive lead in Tuesday’s four-way GOP primary, taking 44 percent of the vote.
Second place between McKinney and Campbell was too close to call, with both taking roughly 24 percent. But McKinney was slightly leading.
With less than 1 percentage point separating the two, an automatic recount was expected to occur today. It was unclear whether that would continue.
The state Election Commission received McKinney’s official withdrawal Thursday, spokesman Chris Whitmire said.
A day earlier, Hall said McKinney was optimistic about being in the runoff and excited to continue bringing his message to voters.
Hall said McKinney will not make any endorsement for the June 24 runoff.
McKinney, a retired Kiawah Island developer, was the first Republican to announce his candidacy last fall, before Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell announced he would not seek election. It was McKinney’s first campaign for elected office.
McConnell, who stepped into the office in 2012 when then-Lt. Gov. Ken Ard pleaded guilty to campaign spending violations, announced in January he would not run for the office, to instead pursue becoming president of his alma mater, the College of Charleston. The board elected him president in March. McConnell is expected to resign the No. 2 post next week in advance of his new job that starts July 1.
The office’s main duties are presiding over the Senate and overseeing the state Office on Aging.
Both Campbell and McMaster entered the race in late March.
Campbell, 45, is the younger son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell. He unsuccessfully sought the job in 2006 and lost in the GOP runoff to then-Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer. He raised the least among the top three and was the only candidate among them without a TV ad.
McMaster, 67, is a former U.S. attorney, state GOP Party chairman and two-term attorney general.
Also on Thursday, fourth-place finisher Ray Moore, a 70-year-old retired Army chaplain, endorsed McMaster at a news conference in Greenville. Moore’s strongest showing was in Greenville County, where he took more than 12 percent of the vote.
“Ray is a welcome addition to the team because he shares my passion and has proven he’s willing to fight for conservative and Christian values,” McMaster said.
Moore’s platform involved encouraging parents to take their children out of public school to either enroll them in a private, Christian school or homeschool them. He also wanted to use the office’s bully pulpit to advocate for monetizing gold and silver coins as an alternative to the dollar.