South Carolina held its Democratic and Republican primaries two weeks ago. Today, South Carolinians head back to the polls for a few high-profile run-off races. I’ll write in detail about the Republican gubernatorial run-off, and briefly summarize the Republican Attorney General race. While there are some local run-offs, I’m focusing on these races in particular because my readership won’t find much value in learning about, say, the Florence County Auditor race.
There are also some interesting Democratic races, including the run-off for US House District 7—my district—but I don’t know enough about those races to comment (I just know Mal Hyman is the more radical progressive of the two, so if you’re looking to vote as a “spoiler” in the Democratic primary—which I don’t recommend—keep that in mind).
Polls are open from 7 AM – 7 PM. You can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primaries, but you have to pick one or the other. You can find all the information you need, including where to vote, here: https://www.scvotes.org/
Republicans – SC Gubernatorial Run-Off
The big one is the race for the Republican Party’s nomination for governor. The incumbent governor, Henry McMaster, currently holds a 17-point lead over newcomer John Warren in a recent Trafalgar Group poll, but a Warren-commissioned poll has the former Marine and Upstate businessman with a slight edge over McMaster.
McMaster is the former Attorney General of South Carolina—an office that also faces a run-off today—and was elected Lieutenant Governor in 2014, the last time South Carolinians voted for that office before adopting a State constitutional amendment that changed to a “presidential-ticket”-style system. Governor McMaster ascended to his gubernatorial position upon President Trump’s appointment of Nikki Haley to serve as Ambassador to the United Nations, where she’s continued to kick butt.
Governor McMaster’s running mate for Lieutenant Governor, businesswoman Pamela Evette, has generated some controversy after security-camera footage showed what appeared to be Mrs. Evette accosting State Representative (and then-SC Secretary of State candidate) Joshua Putnam and his wife for “betray[ing] the governor” (Putnam quoting, allegedly, Evette).
It’s unclear how much damage that might inflict upon the McMaster campaign, which has the endorsement of President Trump. Vice President Mike Pence made a campaign stop for McMaster in Conway this weekend, and President Trump campaigned for the governor Monday evening. Then-Lt. Governor McMaster was the first statewide official in South Carolina to endorse then-candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican presidential primaries.
McMaster has overseen the success Governor Haley’s tenure brought, and he has essentially worked to consolidate that success. John Warren is new to politics—he has never run a race before—but he hopes to use his business acumen and experience in the Marine Corps to be a conservative change agent in Columbia.
McMaster argues that you don’t fire the head football coach and hire a rookie when the team is winning, but there is concern that he’s simply running because he’s always wanted to be governor, and that he won’t push the powerful State legislature—especially the SC Senate—to work on ethics reform, etc.
Warren, on the other hand, seems eager to use the executive power the South Carolina governor does have to make agency-level changes to the State bureaucracy, following the model of President Trump to use executive action (constitutionally) to fix those problems that are immediately fixable.
Anecdotally, I’ve spoken to a number of people about this race, and while one or two predict a blowout victory for McMaster (around 60% of the vote), I’m not so sure. Warren seems “hot” going into this race, and a number of the folks I’ve spoken to are attracted to his business and military record. McMaster may have the edge, but turnout in Warren’s crucial base of support in the Upstate could make this much tighter than the polls suggest.
The winner of today’s run-off will face Democratic gubernatorial nominee James Smith.
You can read more about both candidates here: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/south-carolina/2018/06/23/henry-mcmaster-vs-john-warren-sc-governor-candidates-top-issues-endorsements/724629002/
Republicans – Attorney General Run-Off
Incumbent Attorney General Alan Wilson is seeking another term as AG. He faced two challengers in the initial primary two weeks ago, Todd Atwater and William Herlong. Wilson came out with about 49% of the vote, but State election law requires a clear majority (50%+1) to avoid a run-off. Wilson and Atwater advanced to today’s run-off.
Atwater’s central argument seems to be that it’s time for a change in the Attorney General’s office, and he faults Wilson for not fighting against the Base Load Review Act sooner.
For those outside of South Carolina, some background is in order: customers of the electric co-op Santee-Cooper—which is a big ol’ chunk of South Carolinians—have been paying higher rates on their electric usage for years because the extra money was supposed to fund the construction of another nuclear power plant, the V.C. Summer reactors.
Well, it turns out that Santee-Cooper couldn’t seal the deal even with that extra money, and the whole scheme has fallen down like a stack of Chernobyls. Ratepayers are ticked off because they’re not getting that money back, and everyone in Columbia is blaming everyone else.
In short, the Attorney General argues that the Base Load Review Act is unconstitutional on its face, as the ratepayers’ money was taken from them (in the form of higher rates) without due process.
The thrust of Atwater’s criticism, then, is that, if Wilson is challenging this law’s constitutionality now, why didn’t he do it then, when the law was first passed?
It’s an interesting argument, but, c’mon—the Attorney General is inundated with legal issues at the State and federal level constantly. While I suspect Wilson’s suit against the law is politically-motivated in part—“I’m fighting for the little guy!”—it’s one of those situations that no one saw as a problem until it became a problem.
Wilson’s record is pretty stellar, too, and he’s worked hard to fight human trafficking in the State. He’s passionate about good governance, and, while he’s certainly not perfect, he seems genuinely concerned about serving the people of South Carolina.
I look for Wilson to win this one in a blowout.
You can read more about both candidates here: https://www.greenvilleonline.com/story/news/local/south-carolina/2018/06/20/sc-attorney-general-runoff-incumbent-vs-challenger-alan-wilson-todd-atwater/717521002/
That’s all for now, faithful readers! We’ll be back to our regularly-scheduled programming tomorrow.