A continuing controversy over campaign financial disclosures, a racy novel and the chance for South Carolinians to elect their first black statewide official since Reconstruction combined to liven up today's primary election.
Three Democrats and two Republicans are vying for their parties' nominations for governor in races that have generated little voter interest since Tom Turnipseed, a fire-brand populist whose campaign was making national headlines, dropped out of the race last month because of health problems.
On the Democratic side, a runoff is expected. Lt. Gov. Brantley Harvey, 47, generally viewed as the establishment candidate, has been considered the front-runner. But he has been under increasing attack in recent weeks for refusing to go beyond the letter of South Carolina's weak campaign finance law in disclosing the names of his contributors.
In a debate last week, Harvey tried to downplay the unfavorable publicity over his refusal to disclose the names of donors of less than $100 and over his decision to wait until the day required by law to disclose those of more than $100. The people are more interested in the issues, Harvey said, and the controversy will evaporate as soon as he is elected.
But former state senator Richard Riley's pursuit of the issue apparently had some effect, and Riley, showed by eariler polls as being in third place, appeared to be moving up swiftly as the primary neared. The other Democratic candidate is former congressman William Jennings Bryan Dorn, an unsuccessful candidate for governor in 1974, who ran a low-budget campaign.
Turnipseed refused to endorse anyone, although his wife and his law partner campaigned for Riley.
On the Republican side, the race is considered a tossup between two millionaire businessmen - accountant Raymon R. Finch Jr, and former congressman Ed Young. The GOP governor, James B. Edwards, cannot succeed himself.
In the lieutenant governor's race, a spicy novel coauthored by the only woman in the contest has sent shock waves through the ranks of the state's Baptists.
Nancy Stevenson, 50, a legislator and former newspaper writer, wrote "Savage Summer" in 1976 with a friend, Patricia Robinson of Charleston. It was published by Dell Books. According to a description inside the book's cover, it is a contemporary novel about a woman's strugglers with a dying marriage, a physician's battle with "repressed lusts," and the rituals of a mysterious group of young people with shaved heads and naked bodies.
A Baptist preacher has mounted a statewide campaign against the book, calling it "just flat filth," and urging fellow Bapitists not to vote for Stevenson.
She says the book isn't salacious and has a moral theme.
Stevenson, who has been leading in the polls against two male opponents, would be the first woman ever elected to a statewide office in South Carolina.
Wouth Carolina also might take a step toward electing its first black statewide official since 1876. James Clyburn, 37, a highly regarded member of the South Carolina Human Affairs Commission, is favored to defeat two opponents for the office of secretary of state.
Clyburn's campaign was well-financed and he received money and endorsements from a range of black and while business executives and officeholders. The winner of the primary faces token Republican opposition in the November general election.
Charles (Pug) Ravenel, 40, an investment banker who hopes to take on Sen. Strom Thurmond (R.S.C.) in November, faces weak opposition in the senate primary from three Democratic opponents. Ravenel is expected to win easily. Thurmond is unopposed in GOP primary.