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#SC2018: Catherine Templeton’s Lite Gov Gambit

Will Walt Wilkins pay dividends?

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South Carolina GOP gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton made a major gambit this morning in her bid to become the next chief executive of the Palmetto State.

Templeton’s selection of 44-year-old Upstate prosecutor Walt Wilkins to serve as her running mate in the 2018 gubernatorial election was a bold move.

Is it also a smart move, though?  That remains to be seen … although the verdict will be in quickly.

Templeton’s choice of Wilkins comes just three weeks before “Republican” voters head to the polls for the first round of the partisan primary election process.  It also comes more than six months after incumbent governor Henry McMaster selected Upstate businesswoman Pamela Evette to be his running mate.

Both choices are aspirational … meaning they won’t matter unless McMaster or Templeton win their party’s nomination.

As of this writing, that’s very much up in air … for both of them.  McMaster has a healthy lead over the GOP field, but he appears unlikely to hit the fifty percent (plus one) threshold required to win the nomination outright on the first ballot.  In a South Carolina partisan primary election involving more than two contestants, if no candidate receives a majority of votes on the first ballot – i.e. fifty percent plus one – then the top two finishers square off two weeks later in a runoff election.

Right now that would be McMaster and Templeton – although the latter is fighting furiously to stave off a late challenge from Upstate businessman John Warren in the race for second place.

Wilkins’ selection as her running mate could help her in that effort – as it has the potential to sway voters to her banner in the socially conservative Upstate region (i.e. Warren’s geographic base).

Wilkins has served as the solicitor for the S.C. thirteenth circuit (which includes Greenville and Pickens counties) since 2011 – winning elections in 2010 and 2014.  He is currently unopposed in his bid for a third term for the seat, and told The Greenville News this week he intends to campaign for both positions at the same time.

That’s rubbed some Upstate insiders (including a few who covet the solicitor’s gig) the wrong way.  In fact, we’re told a press conference is being organized for later this week calling on Wilkins to resign as solicitor.

Stay tuned for more on that …

In the meantime, there are positives and negatives associated with Templeton’s selection of Wilkins.

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First, the good …

Aside from the obvious geographic advantage he provides to Templeton, Wilkins also lends her campaign some gravitas on hot button issues.

On the gang front, Wilkins’ office has gone up against the Crips, the Bloods, MS13 and the Latin Kings.  The thirteenth circuit has also been solid on the immigration issue, prosecuting and helping to deport hundreds of illegal immigrants who came to this state and committed crimes.

Both McMaster and Warren have been campaigning extensively on these issues, but Templeton now has a lieutenant gubernatorial candidate with recent, real-world experience on both fronts.

Expect to hear about that in future television commercials …

“Two of our state’s top problems are corruption and crime,” Templeton said in announcing Wilkins as her No. 2. “Walt’s wheelhouse is all of the very important things that keep us safe in South Carolina, and we’re going to work in partnership on those things.”

Of course Wilkins’ selection isn’t 100 percent “on message” for Team Templeton.

As the son of former chief judge Billy Wilkins of the U.S. fourth circuit court of appeals – and the nephew of former U.S. ambassador to Canada David Wilkins – the solicitor brings a bevy of establishment baggage to Templeton’s “conservative outsider” ticket.

Even worse, the Wilkins’ corner of the GOP establishment is basically the South Carolina extension of the Bush political dynasty – which will no doubt remind GOP primary voters of Templeton’s 2016 endorsement of former Florida governor Jeb Bush.

Which will in turn remind them that her recent populist streak is just that … recent.

So it’s not a total “win.”

Also, this news site would be remiss not to point out how deeply disappointed we have been over Wilkins’ collaboration with corrupt “God Cops” in Greenville – officers who abused tax dollars (and potentially did worse than that) as part of an effort to shut down a local strip club.

Still, when it comes to luring primary voters in the Upstate (and eroding Warren’s base) … Templeton’s pick seems to be spot on.

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