- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - A South Carolina legislator who supports the Republican challenger to Gov. Henry McMaster backed off claims Friday that the governor’s representatives had tried to pressure him into an electoral maneuver that could benefit McMaster in this month’s runoff.

During a news conference in which he endorsed Greenville businessman John Warren’s candidacy, state Rep. Dan Hamilton told reporters that people associated with McMaster approached him about protesting results of this week’s GOP primary for the 4th Congressional District.

“I have no intent whatsoever of delaying any race in the 4th District,” Hamilton said, flanked by a number of other Upstate officials and lawmakers announcing their backing of Warren.

Hamilton didn’t give any names of the people he said had contacted him, an allegation first reported Thursday by independent journalist Will Folks .

McMaster campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg called Hamilton’s allegations “100 percent false,” adding: “If he’s not willing to name a name, then what he said has absolutely zero credibility.”

Later Friday, Hamilton told The Associated Press that he had not been contacted directly by the McMaster campaign. He said the idea of the runoff delay may have been something theorized by political consultants evaluating the post-primary situation in the 4th District.

“I think the conversation might have been less serious than has maybe been portrayed,” Hamilton told AP. “I would not cast dispersions on the McMaster campaign. … I think he (McMaster) is a person of integrity.”

Hamilton finished third in the 4th District primary, within 1 percent of second place, sending the race to an automatic recount. If McMaster aides did offer to fund a protest lawsuit, Warren implied the tactic could “disenfranchise” 4th District voters by delaying the June 26 runoff.

That’s also the date of McMaster and Warren’s gubernatorial runoff, and the 4th District contest could spur heavy turnout in Warren’s hometown of Greenville. The 4th District, in Republican hands since Bob Inglis’ election in 1992, is heavily conservative, spanning Republican strongholds of Greenville and Spartanburg.

McMaster carried Spartanburg County over Warren by a margin of 3 percent in Tuesday’s vote. But Warren beat McMaster in Greenville County by 20 percentage points.

“If it is true that Gov. McMaster and his cronies tried to convince Dan Hamilton to file an injunction to disenfranchise the voters of the 4th Congressional District, that is shameful,” Warren told reporters. “That is what we do not need in Columbia.”

In a tweet, Anderegg said: “This baseless allegation is garbage and a complete and utter lie. If Dan Hamilton is going to make such a shamelessly false claim he owes it to the people of this state to prove it or he owes the governor an apology.”

Statewide, McMaster won 42 percent of votes cast in the GOP gubernatorial primary, with Warren coming in second at 28 percent.

On Thursday, the No. 3 and No. 4 finishers - former state public health chief Catherine Templeton and Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant - endorsed Warren’s candidacy. Together, Warren, Templeton and Bryant received 56 percent of Tuesday’s GOP primary vote.


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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