Gov. Jim Hodges won't seek a second term until 2002, but Republicans are already lining up to keep him from getting one.
Attorney General Charlie Condon and Secretary of State Jim Miles both said Monday they will run for governor, setting off a flurry of speculation about who else might be with them on a GOP primary ballot. The two made their announcements just hours apart.
Mr. Condon made his move first, saying that "the number one priority for South Carolina's future" is to replace Mr. Hodges, and accused the governor of "reckless spending schemes that threaten to bury future generations under a mountain of debt."
Mr. Miles had fought tooth and nail against Gov. Hodges' efforts to get a state lottery in South Carolina to help pay for education improvements. But he hadn't planned to announce a bid for the governor's job just yet. With his hand forced by Mr. Condon's announcement, he could do little more Monday than say he's in the running, too.
Mr. Condon, attorney general since 1994, said he also had weighed a possible U.S. Senate bid but ruled it out when Republicans took the White House and both houses of Congress. "A real danger we face is having a governor who does not share our vision for local government or for conservative reform," he said.
A lawyer who won the state's top law-enforcement job after serving as a Charleston-area prosecutor, Mr. Condon is known for making cases against women who used drugs while they were pregnant. He won election on a strong death-penalty platform, saying South Carolina needed "an electric sofa" to execute more than one killer at a time. And he ruled that video poker machines would be contraband the moment the games were legally over last year.
State Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian said Monday that the attorney general should resign instead of use his job to make political points for the governor's race.
"This certainly explains the irrational, illogical behavior of Condon for the last year or so," said Mr. Harpootlian, who ran against and lost to Mr. Condon six years ago. He did not comment on Mr. Miles, whose job is less high profile.
The governor also did not comment. But Hodges spokesman Morton Brilliant said his top priority is improving education, and he won't be distracted by "this kind of political back and forth."
Mr. Condon, he said, "wouldn't know a fact if it thumped him in the head."
Another likely contender for the governor's job is Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, a top Republican who's issued frequent critiques of Mr. Hodges since he took office.
A spokesman said the lieutenant governor won't be guided by what others do or when they do it.
Mr. Harpootlian said anti-lottery activist Ken Wingate of Columbia is another Republican the opposing party expects to announce. So is House Speaker David Wilkins of Greenville.
Mr. Wilkins, who just turned down a federal judgeship to stay where he is, has not ruled out running for governor in 2002 and says many people want him to do so.
Reach Margaret N. O'Shea at (803) 279-6895.