(WIS) - With one week until voters head to the polls to cast their ballots in the Gubernatorial primary, the 5 Republican candidates appeared together in a final debate at Drayton Hall on the University of South Carolina campus Tuesday night. Unlike prior debates, the candidates wasted no time attacking one another on conservative credentials, and ethics conflicts.
Catherine Templeton and Lt. Governor Kevin Bryant sought to tie Governor McMaster to the corruption probe at the State House involving indicted lawmakers Rick Quinn and John Courson, each of whom were charged with corruption and resigned their seats. Templeton claimed Quinn and McMaster enjoyed a cozy relationship of 30 years, and suggested the ethics probe may not be finished.
"I participated in the investigation with the FBI and SLED that resulted in those indictments as well," Templeton said. "My concern is whether or not our current Governor is a target of that investigation or will be a target of that investigation. If we hire him on June 12 and then he gets indicted, we're handing our state to liberals."
Bryant added, "This current political corruption probe has been going on five years. The center of this corruption is Richard Quinn who the media has called 'The Godfather'. I want to know why -- why was the first order of business to have the godfather at the Governor's mansion for a family meeting?"
McMaster countered his house is always open to everybody including Bryant, and denied any investigation is forthcoming.
"The only investigation I've been involved in are ones I was running myself. First as US Attorney. We sent people to jail for voter fraud, which is the height of ethics violations...for drug trafficking all around the world, and as Attorney General I did it again. I am the only one on the stage that's been involved in law and order and that's why I know what to do about it to keep the people safe," McMaster said.
John Warren, who has enjoyed a climb in the polls recently, hammered McMaster on the state's crumbling infrastructure.
"If you like the way our roads are currently, you should continue to vote & support Governor McMaster. But if you're not happy with our roads if you want to strategic vision and a strategic plan on how to fix them, you should turn to the rookie like me. Because I'm a rookie when it comes to government, but I'm not a rookie when it comes to business."
Templeton is working to put some distance between herself and Warren, two candidates fighting for a spot in a possible June 26th runoff. If no candidate gets 51 percent of the vote on June 12th, the top two vote-getters will head to a runoff. The most recent statewide poll of 400 likely Republican Primary voters from Target Insyght, puts Governor McMaster at 37 percent, Templeton at 25 percent and Warren at 20 percent.
When attacking Warren on what she claimed was a shifting abortion position, Templeton said
"John, you're just not who you say you are. Being pro-life is not a political thing for me. It's a personal thing. Everyone knows the story about the difficult pregnancy I had with our twins, but you signed the personhood pledge and then three days ago, it makes no exception for life- and three days ago you're on record saying you make an exception for what the personhood people consider murder."
Warren dismissed the attack as a dirty political trick.
"What has happened this week is I continue to climb in the polls, and that's because I am the messenger of the conservative movement of South Carolina. And what happens when you climb in the polls you get attacked. And the attack ads are coming because my opponents… their support, and their campaigns are crumbling like the states roads and bridges."
Governor McMaster also claimed Templeton was not being honest in her ads.
The Governor said "I think it's good to stick with the truth and don't tell half-truths and don't leave out parts of the story. So - it's actually harder, particularly in Mrs. Templeton's ads to find the truth about me or even about her. I think we've got a new industry brewing in South Carolina it's called fact checkers. I think they're on their way here."
Lt. Governor Kevin Bryant meanwhile drew some laughs and applause when he jumped in the fray,
"None of my friends to my left have attacked me, because they all like me."
Bryant and Yancey McGill are polling in the single digits.
Stay with WIS News 10 for the latest in the Governor's race.