Republican candidates prepare for SC Attorney General primary

Republican candidates prepare for SC Attorney General primary
Published: Jun. 5, 2018 at 3:00 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 5, 2018 at 5:27 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson will face two Republican challengers during the June 12 primary.

State Rep. Todd Atwater, the former top executive for the South Carolina Medical Association will look to unseat Wilson along with his fellow challenger, William Herlong.

"There are three things I think the attorney general has to have and that's leadership, experience, and integrity," Atwater said. "I believe that's what I bring to the table."

In 2010, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives where he serves District 87 in Lexington County. Atwater said during his time in the general assembly, he has stood up to his own leadership, which he plans to continue to do if elected.

"You have to have someone willing and bold enough to say no even when it's not popular or when someone else says they don't think it's the right thing to do," he said.

Atwater is a licensed attorney practicing in corporate law, management and contracting, insurance and labor law for the last 26 years. Atwater and Wilson will also face challenger William Herlong, a Greenville attorney with 32 years of practicing law.

"The kind of litigation I've spent most of my career on is the kind of litigation the AG's office really focuses on and the kind the AG typically has to go outside the office and hire guys like me to do," he said.

Both Atwater and Herlong both said the biggest issue facing the current attorney general's office is corruption.

"You get into the office and you completely evaluate everything going on," Herlong said. "They have the state grand jury which is an incredibly powerful tool so you make sure that grand jury is fully engaged and frankly I'd like to have more than one panel, I'd like to have multiple versions of it going at one time."

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"On day one, I'm going to have a public corruption unit and it's going to be led by seasoned prosecutors and investigators who are very aggressive and a forensic accountant," Atwater said. "You need people dedicated specifically to that, not just here's a case to add to your load, it's going to be…they are going to be a public corruption unit and that's going to be their job."

Attorney General Wilson said his office has taken the lead on fighting corruption and denies corruption within his own office.

"No one has done more to fight corruption as an AG than me and the AG office," Wilson said. "I was the first AG to bring a state grand jury against a statewide elected official. I've prosecuted about 6 members of the general assembly for misconduct in office, assault, failure to pay taxes to name just a couple."

Wilson said his office has prosecuted law enforcement officers, local school superintendents, local officials and elected sheriffs. One of the most notable people Wilson prosecuted was former Lt. Gov. Ken Ard. Ard was eventually convicted of violating ethics laws.

According to Wilson's office, Ard is a supporter of Atwater and has asked voters on his radio show to consider supporting him.

Questions about Atwater's voting record in the general assembly are also coming under fire, as voting records show he voted on multiple bills supported by the South Carolina Medical Association, of which he was C.E.O. at the time.

Opioids and human trafficking are issues all three candidates said to continue to run rampant in South Carolina and will need the continued attention of the attorney general office staff moving forward.

"The multi-faceted problem of opioids is not simply a doctor overwriting prescriptions, that's part of it," Atwater said. "But you have a distribution network and that's why I bring it back to gangs. You have a very large distribution network and if we dry that up, our kids in high school…it's not available, it won't be there for them to even be tempted by it."

Last year, Wilson filed a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma LP, accusing the OxyContin maker of fraudulent marketing practices that contributed to the rise in opioid addiction. Herlong said he doesn't't understand why it took Wilson 10 years following a consent judgment to file the suit.

"They wait 10 years to initiate a lawsuit to bear the fact that they say Purdue Pharma wasn't complying with the consent judgment," Herlong said. "You go back to court immediately, you don't wait 10 years!"

In 2012, South Carolina was one of the worst states in the country when it came to the enforcement of human trafficking laws, according to Attorney General Alan Wilson. After passing the human trafficking law, Wilson said the state now ranks near the top for enforcement.

"Last year in state courts we closed nearly 60 human trafficking cases so the AG office has been at the forefront and at the center of the war on human trafficking along with law enforcement around the state and I'm incredibly proud of that," Wilson said.

However, Atwater said Wilson has yet to engage in the fight against human trafficking.

"Simply hiring people and talking about how many people we have doesn't work," Atwater said. "We have to make sure the solicitors and sheriff and the AG himself is involved. You can't be absent from these takedowns."

Wilson said since taking office in 2011, he has brought more than 50 legal actions against the Obama administration, defended the state's voter ID laws and sued over sanctuary cities.

The Republican primary will take place June 12.

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