- Associated Press - Thursday, June 14, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Greenville businessman John Warren got a major boost Thursday in his Republican runoff campaign against Gov. Henry McMaster by forming a united front with his former rivals.

In the first of several stops Thursday to capitalize on their endorsements, Warren appeared with Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and former public health chief Catherine Templeton. Together, they received 56 percent of Tuesday’s GOP primary vote, forcing a June 26 runoff against McMaster, who managed only 42 percent. Warren finished second, and is hoping his rivals’ backing could push him over the top.

Bryant, who became lieutenant governor after McMaster was promoted to governor last year, said Warren’s solid opposition to abortion makes him the right choice. Templeton, who ran two state agencies for Gov. Nikki Haley, said it’s time for a new generation to lead the state.

John Warren is the future of South Carolina,” Templeton told reporters on Thursday. “Henry is the past.”

Both Templeton and Warren ran as “outsiders” without experience in elected politics. But Warren, who served in the Marines and founded a Greenville mortgage company, had never been involved in politics at all.

McMaster has been in state politics for decades, serving two terms as attorney general and mounting an unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign in 2010. Elected lieutenant governor in 2014, he replaced Gov. Nikki Haley when she became U.N. Ambassador and is now seeking his first full term.

Templeton campaigned for the nomination for more than a year, essentially matching McMaster in fundraising numbers. Warren entered the race in February, going from virtual anonymity to a last-minute surge that propelled him into the runoff. He and Templeton traded barbs before the June 12 vote, but on Thursday, Warren said any political hatchets had been buried in the interest of preventing McMaster from being the Republican nominee.

“That’s in the past,” Warren said Thursday. “It was less animosity and more passion. We are all unified now and we are going to win this thing two weeks from now.”

Templeton told The Associated Press that McMaster also approached her for runoff support, but she views Warren as the right candidate to carry on the messages of her campaign.

“I sat with John and asked all the hard questions,” she said. “He will build a team of experts to help him drain the swamp, and I am proud to trust my money and my children with him as our next governor.”

McMaster and Warren will debate next week in Newberry. The winner faces Democratic Rep. James Smith in November.


Sign up for “Politics in Focus,” a weekly newsletter showcasing the AP’s best political reporting from across the United States leading up to the 2018 midterm elections: http://apne.ws/3Gzcraw .

Reach Kinnard at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP . Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.

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