COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson is headed for a run-off with state representative Todd Atwater on June 26.
During Tuesday's primary, Wilson received 49 percent of the vote, while Atwater claimed 30 percent and Greenville attorney William Herlong was eliminated from the run-off with 22 percent.
"Statistically, I won half the state in a three-way race and that's something I'm incredibly proud of," Wilson said.
Atwater, though, views the primary outcome differently.
"52 percent of Republicans in South Carolina said it's time to fire Alan Wilson after eight years of him protecting his political buddies," he said.
Both Wilson and Atwater said they felt confident on the campaign trail ahead of Tuesday's primary. With the race narrowed down to two people, they said their campaigns now enter the sprint phase of the race.
"The attorney general is the state's chief prosecutor," Wilson said. "There are two people running for this office, one of them has never prosecuted a case in their life or been part of the criminal justice system or even been in the courtroom."
Atwater said he knows the power of incumbency but is encouraged by the support he received around the state on Tuesday.
"We said it's time to change Columbia and we know Mr. Wilson hasn't done that," Atwater said. "He's spent eight years protecting the political elite and protecting his own job and making sure other people can't get in to do the job of Attorney General and that's to end corruption in Columbia."
Earlier this spring, Atwater made an appearance on a radio show of former Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard. Wilson prosecuted Ard for misconduct in office in 2012. He was charged with 69 counts of spending campaign money for personal use and 23 counts of failing to disclose campaign expenses. He was also indicted on seven counts of ethics violations related to the 2010 race.
Wilson claims Atwater's hope for an endorsement from Ard is hypocritical, as Atwater has said during his campaign Wilson tried to derail a public corruption investigation into Richard Quinn and his son, Rick Quinn, in recent years.
"It was ironic, almost hypocritical for my opponent to attack me because I happen to be friends with people who had allegations lobbed against them," Wilson said. "Yet he's seeking the endorsement of someone our office prosecuted for conducting misconduct in office and again, he doesn't understand and it's hypocritical."
"If there's hypocrisy it is Alan Wilson, it is the definition I think his picture is in the dictionary," Atwater said. "Because it's his friends, all seven of them, that had been indicted. He tried to make sure the prosecutor couldn't prosecute, he tried to get the prosecutor removed, if that's not interfering, I don't know what is."
When asked about appearing on Ard's Florence radio show, Atwater simply said he was invited.
"Ken Ard has paid his penalty and he admits it so he runs a radio program you go on," Atwater said. "Mr. Ard has stepped forward and said I did something wrong and he stepped out of office. Alan Wilson has no leg to stand on, he shouldn't have recused himself he should have stepped down from the office."
Wilson said he is confident heading into the run-off he has the support to come out on top. He said his achievements serving as attorney general for the past eight years set him apart from Atwater.
"We have passed a human trafficking law, we have created a human trafficking task force and we have grown our internet crimes against children task force for 44 law enforcement agencies to 108 agencies," Wilson said. "We've prosecuted over 750 predators and pedophiles preying on our children. We have also consolidated the crime victims services division and housed them under the AG's office."
Wilson said Atwater has never prosecuted a case and doesn't have the knowledge necessary to do the job of attorney general. Instead, he claims Atwater is a career lobbyist.
"The one that is now running against me has never been in a court of law, has never practiced law in 26 years and to have those people running against me and collectively spend a million dollars smearing me and the men and women of the AG office and to get nearly 50 percent in a three-way race, I think that's very impressive," Wilson said.
"I'm not a lobbyist, I haven't been a lobbyist for 25 years," Atwater said. "I was a lobbyist for the chamber of commerce for two sessions when I was 27 years old."
When asked if he was surprised the race went to a run-off, Atwater said no. Wilson alleges Atwater has been using his campaign rhetoric to gain votes.
"He's going out there and giving my campaign speech so people are voting for Alan Wilson's campaign speech when they listen to him talk," Wilson said. "My agenda is getting voted for, it's just that he's hijacked it."
Atwater denies those claims.
"It's very convenient for him to all of a sudden claim my ideas are things he's come up with," Atwater said. "He's taking credit for McMaster's internet crimes against children, he's taken credit for the focus I've put on human trafficking and gangs. He's now taking credit on public corruption on which he's been absent from. Absent Alan is just a household name because he hasn't been there."
On Thursday, Wilson was endorsed by Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon and state representative Micah Caskey, who represents the 89th district.
William Herlong, who took third place in Tuesday's primary, has endorsed Atwater.