As stated before the striking thing about the GOP race for Lt. Governor is the lack of heavyweight contenders. Typically, there is as at least one legislative or otherwise political heavyweight in the field for the office. In 1986, the Republican nominee was Congressman Tommy Hartnett. In 1990, the Republican nominee was former U.S. Attorney Henry McMaster. Hartnett lost to long time state senator Nick Theodore. Lt. Governor Theodore defeated McMaster in 1990.
In 1994, Bob Peeler, Chairman of the State Board of Education, defeated former Congressional candidate Henry Jordan and longtime Republican House member Howell Clyburn for the GOP nomination. Peeler then went on to defeat former Congresswoman Liz Patterson in the general election. Four years later, Lt. Governor Peeler would defeat former Lt. Governor Theodore.
In 2002, state senator Andre Bauer defeated state senator David Thomas for the GOP nomination, and won the Lt. Governor’s office by defeating state senator Phil Leventis. The 2002 election was the last year of known political heavyweights getting into the Lt. Governor’s race.
The 2006 election ended nearly 100 years of political heavyweights challenging for the Lt. Governor’s office. Lt. Governor Bauer defeated two restaurant owners on his way to re-election. The first was Mike Campbell, a political novice whose greatest asset was being the son of former Governor Carroll Campbell. The second was the Democratic nominee, Robert Barber. The election was known more for Lt. Governor Bauer surviving an airplane crash and Barber losing his lowcountry restaurant to fire than any great political debate.
Perhaps the 2006 election set up the situation in 2010. In the GOP field, there is Florence County Councilman Ken Ard, retired Army Lt. Colonel Bill Connor and longtime former Judge Larry Richter. All three men have accomplished lives, but they do not have the historic resumes candidates for Lt. Governor have had for the past century or so.
However, those three are the GOP field. As such, here is how VUI sees the field as of late March. Ard has the advantage, for now. Ard has worked the grassroots hard that are necessary to win a down ballot race. Connor, good man that he is, seems not to have gained any traction.
That leaves Larry Richter. Richter has an impressive resume, some personal money to pump in, and some personal baggage. However, the race seems to be now between Ard’s personal touch in grassroots campaigning against Richter’s money and lowcountry connections. Connor seems to be relegated to the role of spoiler.
That said, the Lt. Governor’s race is fluid. With voter and political activist interest so low and the candidates all relatively unknown, the field could shift. There is a lot of hard work left to be done for the campaign that claims the nomination in June. But, when forced to call it, VUI says it is between Ard and Richter, and it is going to be one helluva race.