Greenville businessman John Warren joining South Carolina GOP governor race

John Warren

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COLUMBIA — The field running for South Carolina governor keeps growing.

John Warren, a former Marine infantry captain who runs a Greenville lender to real estate investors, has entered the race, joining three other Republicans trying to unseat Gov. Henry McMaster.

He is the second late addition to the campaign just five months ahead of the June primary. Marguerite Willis, a Florence antitrust attorney, became the third Democrat in the mix Jan. 31.

Like Willis, Warren is expected to self fund a good part of his bid to make up for the leads built by McMaster and Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton. The governor raised $3.3 million in 2017, while Templeton, a former two-time state agency chief in her first run for office, collected $2.8 million.

Warren had mulled bids for office, including Congress, before announcing in December he was exploring a run for governor. He kicked in $50,000 to jump start his campaign.

The 38-year-old Greenville native is using a familiar recent political theme to position himself in the crowded race, billing himself as a political outsider in his first election. That platform helped Republicans Nikki Haley become governor in 2010 and Donald Trump win the White House in 2016. Warren mentions Haley in his introduction video, saying he can make the state better like she did during her six years before becoming United Nations ambassador in 2017.

Warren said he wants term limits for lawmakers, competitive bidding on all state contracts and a constitutional amendment that life begins at conception. Like Templeton, he is taking aim at the Statehouse corruption probe that has led to the resignation of three legislators and indictments against three other current and former lawmakers.

"They lack the necessary core values and core competencies to serve South Carolina effectively," Warren said. "I’ll start by fighting the good ol’ boy system in Columbia that lines the pockets of special interest groups and politicians at the expense of honest, hardworking South Carolinians."

The Republican field for governor now pits a trio of veteran politicians — McMaster, a former lieutenant governor and state attorney general; Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant, a former state senator; and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, a former Democratic state senator — against political newcomers Templeton and Warren.

Warren could be an alternative for GOP voters seeking an "outsider." Templeton has been criticized for running an impulsive campaign that included outspoken support of the Confederacy, which she says was created as a response to federal government overreach.

Among Democrats, Willis and Charleston businessman Phil Noble face a tough challenge against state Rep. James Smith, a two-decade legislator who has the support of former Vice President Joe Biden and met with Democratic Governor’s Association officials ahead of his bid.

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