COLUMBIA - Sen. Jake Knotts is wrapping up his petition drive to be on the ballot in November as a challenger to Republican Gov. Mark Sanford and Democratic Sen. Tommy Moore.
On Friday, Mr. Knotts said he was confident he would have more than the 10,000 signatures needed to get on the ballot and now is making his final decision whether to run.
By Thursday night, the tally had passed 7,000, said Mr. Knotts, R-West Columbia. The campaign had planned to stop taking signatures Friday, but Mr. Knotts said supporters needed more time to assemble petitions and return them.
Mr. Knotts said he will spend the weekend with his petition drive organizers, checking names against voter registration lists and redacting Social Security numbers that some provided when they didn't have voter registration numbers.
The petition is a public record, but those numbers would be redacted before being released, State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.
The petitions are due at the state Election Commission by noon Monday. Mr. Whitmire said they'll be sent to counties where those who signed live to verify their status as registered voters. Some counties will verify all the signatures, and others will sample 10 percent.
For instance, if Mr. Knotts gathered 1,000 signatures in Richland County, the county could choose to check 100. If 90 of those are accurate, the petition for that county would be accepted.
Mr. Knotts said the petitions will help him and advisers decide whether he can mount a credible campaign - and where he has the most work to do.
He says he won't enter the race unless he has some expectation of being able to win by taking votes from Mr. Moore, of Clearwater, and Mr. Sanford.
"I'm going to have to let the experts look at that and make recommendation to me. Then I'm going to listen to what they say," Mr. Knotts said.
If he had to decide Friday, Mr. Knotts replied: "Let's go for it."
The decision likely will come next week as the Election Commission distributes petitions to counties.
Sanford campaign manager Jason Miller said he'll wait until Mr. Knotts qualifies to get on the ballot before commenting on him as a challenger.
For his part, Mr. Moore has said he knows Mr. Knotts is an independent-minded person, sharing that trait with plenty of South Carolina voters. And he said he understands the frustration Mr. Knotts has with Mr. Sanford "because they cross party lines."