Pubdate: Wed, 26 Jun 2002
Source: State, The (SC)
Copyright: 2002 The State
Author: Clif LeBlanc


The Columbia Republican Will Take On Democrat Steve Benjamin In Fall For 
Attorney General

Longtime GOP chairman Henry McMaster swept to victory in Tuesday's attorney 
general runoff over a self-described party outsider.

McMaster, who joined the race only three months ago, said he beat 
Charleston lawyer Larry Richter because voters chose experience as a 
prosecutor and his get-tough plans on Internet and drug crime.

The 55-year-old Columbia attorneyhis party's top official for nine years 
before this campaign -- plans to ride that message to victory in November 
over Democrat Steve Benjamin.

Benjamin, also a lawyer, is the former director of the state Department of 
Probation, Parole and Pardon Services.

Richter, a longtime judge, said his political independence hurt him.

"The single deciding factor is that I am not a part of the traditional 
Republican machine in this state," he said. "I have not courted the party 

The attorney general is South Carolina's top prosecutor, representing the 
state in criminal appeals, civil and state grand jury cases. The attorney 
general also supervises the state's 16 elected solicitors.

Both candidates had to fend off criticism during the campaign.

McMaster acknowledged he had accepted $8,500 in campaign contributions from 
video poker interests in two races for public office. He declined to return 
the money donated by a Goose Creek operator in this campaign.

Richter, while a judge, was questioned about a land deal with a man later 
convicted in a major federal drug smuggling case.

McMaster and Richter met in Tuesday's runoff after Jon Ozmint was 
eliminated June 11.

Incumbent Attorney General Charlie Condon chose not to seek a third term, 
opting to run for the GOP nomination for governor. Condon came in third two 
weeks ago in a seven-person field.

Tuesday's race for attorney general divided the Hoots family of the 
Irmo/Chapin area. The winning side went to young Christopher Hoots, who 
cast his ballot with his parents.

The fact that President Reagan selected McMaster as U.S. attorney for South 
Carolina in 1981 weighed heavily for 23-year-old Christopher Hoots.

"If he was good enough to serve for Reagan, he's good enough to serve the 
state of South Carolina," the younger Hoots said.

Susan Hoots, 53, and Harvey Hoots, 52, voted for Richter.

They favored him because they thought he has broader courtroom experience 
as a former municipal, family and circuit court judge and a courtroom lawyer.

Susan Hoots, a court reporter, and Harvey Hoots, a salesman, acknowledged 
their votes were swayed by the respect they have for Richter's supporters.

W.P. Perry, an 81-year-old insurance adjuster, said he cast his ballot for 
McMaster because, "He's a more conservative thinker."
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