ANDERSON -- Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant officially entered the 2018 South Carolina gubernatorial race alongside his family on Friday, touting his conservative record and a need to restore integrity in the state capital.
Bryant is running on the fiscal and moral conservative record he honed during 12 years as a state senator, reflecting the values of the heavily Republican Upstate region from which he hails.
“I’m not running to the right—I am the right,” Bryant said after being asked about his ideologies compared to those of the other three Republicans in the race.
Bryant gave a fiery S.C. Republican Convention speech in May and traveled the state attending local Republican Party meetings, which only fueled speculation of a bid for governor. He joins his boss Gov. Henry McMaster along with former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill and former state labor and environmental agency director Catherine Templeton in the race, so far.
No Democratic candidates have announced yet for the 2018 race.
“The votes that I cast in the South Carolina Senate speak for themselves, whether on immigration reform, transparency, lower taxes, less regulation or anything else,” Bryant told the crowd of roughly 40 supporters. “I have cast the conservative vote to promote your liberty and protect your wallet.”
Bryant is running on a campaign theme of integrity, in light of an ongoing State House corruption probe that has ensnared four lawmakers. The anti-corruption theme is emerging as a dominant theme of the 2018 race and one his follow challenger Templeton is playing up, as well.
“Many of our leaders lack the personal integrity to resist the temptation that empowerment brings,” Bryant said, adding later, “I don’t know where the fires are, but I know there’s a ton of smoke over South Carolina,” Bryant said.
Bryant is a 50-year-old pharmacist who narrowly won his fourth primary outright in 2016. However, Bryant only served for several days before he filled McMaster’s spot as lieutenant governor, after Nikki Haley was confirmed as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.
Bryant has $98,000 in his lieutenant governor campaign account but will need permission from donors before he can transfer the funds into his recently opened gubernatorial account. He acknowledges that fundraising will be an uphill battle, since McMaster and Templeton have raised $1.5 million and $1.3 million, respectively, so far this year.
McGill, who served 26 years in the Senate as a Democrat representing Williamsburg county, and later served as Haley’s lieutenant governor for seven months until McMaster was sworn-in in 2015, only has $12,000 on hand.