Kevin Bryant ready for life after politics. ‘Bestest leftist friend’ thinks he’ll enjoy it

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Lt Gov Kevin Bryant thankful for past Ken Ruinard, Anderson Independent Mail

As he prepares to end his 14-year tenure in the Statehouse, Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant has taken up a new hobby.

Instead of drafting legislation or hitting the campaign trail, the Republican from Anderson is honing his culinary skills on his new Big Green Egg, a ceramic charcoal grill.

“I’ve done pork tenderloin. I’ve done bacon-wrapped turkey breasts,” he said during a recent interview. “I’ve done pizza.”

He’s also put in more hours at his family’s business, Bryant Pharmacy & Supply, and caught up on yard work at home.

“It has been nice to have more time to do things,” he said.

Time in the public light is ending for the 51-year-old.

In his final act as lieutenant governor, Bryant will gavel the state Senate into session on Jan. 8. One day later, he will watch Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and the state’s new lieutenant governor, Travelers Rest businesswoman Pamela Evette, take their oaths of office.

When the inaugural ceremony is over, Bryant said, “I might just give the big Nixon goodbye.”

A two-year roller-coaster ride ends in Bryant’s first election loss

A lot has changed since Bryant eked out a 370-vote win over former Pendleton Mayor Carol Burdette in the June 2016 GOP primary for the state Senate. Facing no Democratic opposition, Bryant claimed a fourth term in District 3 in the November 2016 general election.

Fifteen days after defeating Hillary Clinton in the same election, President-elect Donald Trump chose then-Gov. Nikki Haley to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, setting off a round of political musical chairs in South Carolina.

McMaster, who was lieutenant governor at the time, replaced Haley. After cutting a deal with Senate leader Hugh Leatherman, Bryant gave up the seat that he had held for 12 years and was sworn in as the state’s 92nd lieutenant governor on Jan. 25, 2017.

Seven months later, Bryant announced he was seeking the Republican nomination for governor.

“It is my goal and the goal of our campaign to bring integrity back to Columbia as we promote your liberty and protect your wallet,” Bryant said during his campaign kickoff outside the Cromer Food Services compound in Anderson.

He spent the next 11½ months traveling across the state to introduce himself to voters.

“Our strategy was to highlight my record,” Bryant said. “I had a very conservative record, and none of the other candidates did.”

A January poll showing Bryant in second place behind McMaster in the GOP governor’s race offered a flicker of hope. But an inability to raise significant amounts of campaign cash kept him from building momentum.

“You can have the best message in the world, but if you don’t have the funds to get on TV and some mail and newspaper ads and all that kind of stuff it’s hard to get that message to voters,” Bryant said.

Republican John Warren, a wealthy Greenville businessman and Marine veteran, entered the governor’s race in February. Warren ultimately poured $3.3 million of his own money into his campaign.

Bryant initially invested $225,000 of his own money and a $25,000 personal loan in his campaign. In the weeks before the June primary, he contributed another $514,000 of his personal funds, which allowed him to pay for a last-minute series of TV campaign ads.

He came in fourth among a five-person field in the Republican primary, collecting about 7 percent of the votes. McMaster, one of the state’s best-known politicians who benefited from Trump’s endorsement, finished first in the primary, and he defeated Warren in a runoff two weeks later before vanquishing Democratic state Rep. James Smith in this month’s general election.

The primary marked Bryant’s first-ever loss in an election. In Anderson County, he finished a disappointing third behind McMaster and Warren.

Rep. Jonathon Hill, a Republican from Townville, said Bryant’s lackluster showing in Anderson County may have stemmed from his 2015 vote to remove the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds.

“I know a lot of people were pretty much through with him at that point,” said Hill, who was among 23 GOP members in the state House of Representatives who voted against removing the banner.

Anderson County Republican Party Chairwoman Cheryl Cuthrell said the odds were stacked against Bryant in the governor’s race largely because of Trump’s support for McMaster.

“It is kind of hard to beat Trump,” she said.

Reflecting on the campaign,…

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