The 2006 South Carolina gubernatorial election took place on November 7, 2006. Incumbent RepublicanGovernorMark Sanford was running for re-election against DemocraticState SenatorTommy Moore and became only the third Republican governor in South Carolina to win a second term (Robert Kingston Scott and Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. were the others). Sanford started the campaign with a double-digit edge over Moore and he maintained that lead to election day. During the course of the campaign, Sanford's approval rating averaged in the mid fifties. In Sanford's re-election victory, he also garnered 22 percent of the African American vote, which was considered very high for a Republican statewide candidate.
Moore and Willis traded barbs over campaign contributions made by Willis and his wife to prominent Republicans, including President George W. Bush and Senator Lindsey Graham. Attorney C. Dennis Aughtry, who entered the campaign at the eleventh hour, floated the idea of legalizing casinos statewide to raise money for public schools. Moore garnered more than 50% of the vote in the Democratic primary held on June 13 and thus avoided a runoff election.
Governor Mark Sanford proposed three major issues in his campaign for re-election, chief among them being the restructuring of state government. He wanted to reduce the number of statewide elected officials from nine to three and eliminate the state's Budget and Control Board. The governor insisted that these measures would reduce the number of redundant positions and make state government both more efficient and less costly. Sanford's three major issues for the campaign were:
State Senator Tommy Moore ran as a good manager of state government. He held socially conservative and fiscally moderate positions, which put him squarely at odds with the libertarian incumbent. Moore disagreed with what he believed was Sanford's condescending and combative approach of dealing with the General Assembly. The senator also believed that Sanford lacked leadership skills, and that lack of leadership had brought South Carolina to a standstill over the past four years in his view. The main policy proposals that he developed were:
A rural infrastructure bank to help undeveloped counties.
A governor's office that actively recruits new businesses to the state.
A 30 cent tax increase on cigarettes to offset small business tax credits for employee health insurance.
On July 7, several weeks after the primary election, Lexington CountyState SenatorJake Knotts launched a last minute effort to place his name on the ballot as a petition candidate for governor. He had feuded with Governor Sanford over a number of issues, including the heart center for Lexington County, and supported Lovelace in the Republican primary. In order to be on the ballot in November, Knotts needed to collect 10,000 signatures of registered voters by July 17, which he failed to do. Knotts's political consultant publicly stated that he could not have raised enough money to have run a successful candidacy.
There were two trains of thought on the effects of a candidacy by Knotts. It was generally believed that had Knotts entered the race, it would have split the Republican vote and helped elect Tommy Moore. However, because those who supported Knotts went on to support Moore, it was also argued that a Knotts candidacy would have in fact deprived Moore of both votes and money.