South Carolina first circuit solicitor David Pascoe is considering campaigning for the office of attorney general in 2022 – setting up a potential battle royale against his longtime nemesis, S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson.
Sources close to Pascoe told me late Wednesday he had been approached by several solicitors and urged to run against Wilson in 2022.
Pascoe, 53, has been touted as the leading candidate to become U.S. president Joe Biden’s top attorney for the state of South Carolina – however some have speculated he may not have the support he needs in Washington, D.C. for his nomination to clear the U.S. Senate.
Of course, Pascoe may not be quite as interested in assuming the U.S. attorney position as he is in becoming attorney general – an independently elected statewide office which arguably wields more power (and far more prosecutorial discretion) within the borders of the Palmetto State.
Reached for comment early Thursday, Pascoe declined to engage in a discussion of either office … which is probably not all that surprising given some of the criticism thrown at him in recent months by my news outlet.
I spent several years supporting Pascoe as he led prosecutions tied to ProbeGate, a major investigation into corruption at the South Carolina State House that started out with tremendous promise but fizzled out a little more than two years ago.
“Corporate entities retained Richard Quinn for the purpose of gaining access to and influence over public officials, and by failing to report Quinn’s services, influenced the outcome of legislative matters with no accountability or disclosure to the public,” the grand jurors who investigated Quinn and his cronies wrote in a report released in October of 2018.
ProbeGate led to the resignation of numerous influential state lawmakers – outcomes attributable to Pascoe (and for which I praised him effusively).
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Former speaker of the House Bobby Harrell, former S.C. Senate president John Courson, former House majority leader Jimmy Merrill, former House majority leader Rick Quinn (the son of Richard Quinn) and former S.C. House judiciary chairman Jim Harrison all went down in connection with the investigation – although as of this writing none of them has seen a day of jail time.
Harrison may be close to having to report to prison, however, as his recent efforts to appeal a 2018 guilty verdict have all come up short.
The real problem with ProbeGate? Its failure to hold the corporate entities who pulled the strings of these politicians accountable. Specifically, so-called “corporate integrity agreements” reached between Pascoe and several of the corporate defendants in this case have sparked considerable controversy.
Meanwhile Wilson, who stumbled badly at the outset of ProbeGate, has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years – including a recent high-profile win on a Second Amendment case. His office has also drawn praise for its handling of a controversial boat crash case involving a powerful Lowcountry South Carolina family.
In addition to seeing a resurgence of public support – marked by decisive primary and general election victories three years ago – the third-term incumbent has encountered similar success on the fundraising trail. As of April 10, 2021, campaign disclosure reports filed with the S.C. State Ethics Commission (SCSEC) revealed Wilson had nearly $325,000 in his reelection account – a tidy sum at this stage for any statewide race, let alone a down-ballot election.
One of Wilson’s advisors added that a political action committee supporting his candidacy was raising “seven figures” – and that’s before the newly minted chairman of the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA) begins working his national donor network.
In other words, Wilson’s war chest will be formidable … which will only bolster his built-in advantage as a Republican officeholder (Democrats have not won a statewide election in South Carolina since 2006).
Can Pascoe flip that script? It seems exceedingly unlikely barring some seismic shift in the mood of the electorate – however, the perpetual minority party could not ask for a more motivated candidate.
A wily Sicilian who hails from Virginia (but graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C), Pascoe has clearly demonstrated an ability to go toe-to-toe with Wilson on the statewide stage. He has also evidenced an affinity for the fight.
Also, Pascoe also has his own network of influential donors he can tap in order to achieve fiscal parity with Wilson. Oh, and the veteran solicitor has a solid network of statewide media contacts … which is his adept at working to his advantage.
Bottom line? I do not see Pascoe defeating Wilson in a general election in 2022 (in the event he decides to seek this office) – but he is arguably one of the most credible candidates Democrats have put forward at the statewide level in several election cycles.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children. And yes, he has LOTS of hats (including that Minnesota Twins’ lid pictured above).
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