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S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley is actively recruiting one of her top political donors – and one of her appointments to the powerful S.C. State Ports Authority (SCSPA) board – to run for the office of lieutenant governor in 2014, multiple sources have confirmed to FITS.

Pat McKinney – a wealthy Lowcountry, S.C. developer – is the third person Haley has approached and asked to run against incumbent Glenn McConnell in next year’s “Republican” primary election. Sources tell FITS Haley previously approached S.C. Sen. Shane Massey (R-Aiken) and S.C. Rep. Todd Atwater (R-Lexington) – but was rebuffed by both lawmakers.

What’s the governor’s beef with McConnell?

Well, Haley and McConnell – then the powerful president of the State Senate – engaged in a high-profile spat in 2011 following the first of three totally unproductive legislative sessions for the governor. Upset at lawmakers, Haley attempted to convene an emergency session of the S.C. General Assembly in an attempt to force them to address her agenda items – specifically her watered down government restructuring bill.

McConnell sued, arguing Haley had no constitutional authority to call for an emergency session. That lawsuit was later upheld by the S.C. Supreme Court.

The following year Haley and McConnell’s battle jumped to a higher energy level after the governor was busted selling our state’s economic interests down the river via the “Savannah River Sellout.” Livid at the governor’s nakedly self-serving act, McConnell referred to her decision – which killed a public-private port in Jasper County, S.C. and diminished the competitiveness of the Port of Charleston – as the “rape of the river.”

Haley has been trying to find a candidate to oppose McConnell ever since he took over the lieutenant governor’s office in the wake of Ken Ard’s resignation last March.

Will McKinney be her man?

We shall see …

For his part, McKinney was part of a minor controversy in September 2011 when he provided Haley and her staff with a glorified vacation on Kiawah Island. Other than that we know very little about him – except for his donations to Haley, his political appointment and the fact his son-in-law briefly worked in the governor’s office.

If he jumps in, McKinney would face McConnell and Bill Connor, an Afghan War veteran and lawyer from Orangeburg, S.C., in the GOP primary election. Running on the Democratic side is up-and-coming S.C. Rep. Bakari Sellers of Bamberg, S.C.

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Pic: Travis Bell Photography