Candidates make final pitches before South Carolina primary

June 11, 2018
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South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster smiles during a campaign stop in Aiken, SC., Thursday, June 7, 2018. (Michael Holahan/The Augusta Chronicle via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Gubernatorial candidates made their final push to sell their messages to voters on Monday, traversing South Carolina in the closing hours before the state’s primary elections.

Gov. Henry McMaster, with backing from President Donald Trump, faces off Tuesday with four Republican challengers in his pursuit of a first full term. During a weeklong bus tour, McMaster also picked up endorsements from various state lawmakers and officials. On Monday, he planned to fly around the state to round up more last-minute support.

McMaster, elevated to the governor’s office early last year when Trump picked then-Gov. Nikki Haley to serve as his U.N. Ambassador, is again seeking election to an office he’s lost before. In 2010, McMaster finished third in a four-way GOP primary eventually won by Haley. He served her administration in several capacities before winning election as lieutenant governor in 2014.

Over the weekend, Trump reiterated his support on Twitter, saying McMaster — the first statewide-elected official to back his candidacy — “is doing a fantastic job as your Governor, and has my full endorsement, a special guy. Vote on Tuesday!” McMaster has led his individual competitors in recent polls but has lagged behind them collectively, falling well below the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

The governor’s top two primary challengers also planned last-minute campaign swings. Catherine Templeton, South Carolina’s former public health chief, planned several stops around the state on Monday. John Warren’s campaign said the Greenville businessman was stumping in the Lowcountry.

Templeton and Warren are banking on voters’ desire to elect political newcomers. Templeton twice served in Haley’s administration but has never pursued elected office. Warren, a Marine and businessman, is new to politics entirely.

Yancey McGill, a former Democratic state senator who briefly served as lieutenant governor, is also pursuing the Republican nomination, as is current Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant. Neither of them has garnered significant support in polling, and both campaigns have raised far less than the other three.

On the Democratic side of the race, voters are also faced with a choice between political experience and newcomer perspective. The front-runner, Afghanistan veteran and longtime state Rep. James Smith, planned to fly around the state Monday.

Charleston consultant Phil Noble planned to campaign in the Lowcountry, while attorney Marguerite Willis’ campaign said she was spending the day talking to voters in Orangeburg and her hometown of Florence.

There are also primaries in some of South Carolina’s seven congressional districts, including for Republican U.S. Reps. Mark Sanford and Tom Rice. Two Republican statewide officeholders, Attorney General Alan Wilson and Secretary of State Mark Hammond, also face primary challengers.

If needed, runoff elections will be held June 26.


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