Greenville lawyer William Herlong is leaving little doubt about the key issue that he will focus on during his bid to unseat South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson.
“Issue No. 1 is corruption. Issue No. 2 is corruption. Issue No. 3 is corruption,” said Herlong during a recent interview. The Republican candidate formally kicked off his campaign Monday morning.
“I’m convinced that we have a deep-seeded, endemic problem in Columbia. There is a culture of corruption,” Herlong said. “And the only way to do anything about it is to have an attorney general who is dead-level serious.”
Herlong said that Wilson, a Republican seeking a third term as attorney general, has failed to effectively fight Statehouse corruption.
Citing potential conflicts of interest, Wilson appointed 1st Judicial Circuit Solicitor David Pascoe in 2014 to lead a corruption probe that so far has resulted in guilty pleas from three former legislators. Wilson later unsuccessfully tried to remove Pascoe from the post.
“The attorney general is the one office who is responsible for holding everybody accountable, and if that guy is compromised, it is Katy bar the door,” Herlong said. “What good is an attorney general who cannot investigate corruption in the state legislature? That is like a police officer who can’t arrest people. That is the job. It is not all of the job, but it is a huge part of the job.”
A native of Saluda, Herlong, 59, is a married father of four adult children. He has handled dozens of cases that went to trial during a 32-year legal career. His political experience includes eight years as a member of the Greenville County school board and one unsuccessful run for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
Danielle Vinson, a professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University, said Monday that Wilson is better known to voters across the state than Herlong. But she also said that Wilson could be vulnerable.
“If Herlong is going to make it about corruption this is certainly a race that Alan can’t overlook,” Vinson said.
Herlong has taken out a $200,000 loan and contributed $24,000 of his own money to his campaign, while Wilson has slightly more than $1 million in campaign cash on hand.
“What does it say that an attorney general is sitting on $1 million?” Herlong asked. “Why would people give $1 million to an attorney general other than to buy influence?”
Herlong is seeking to portray himself as outsider with humble roots who has no political aspirations beyond serving as state attorney general.
“The good people of South Carolina need somebody to step up and challenge all of those entrenched, good ol’ boy interests,” he said.
Follow Kirk Brown on Twitter @KirkBrown_AIM and email him at [email protected]
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