By JEFFREY COLLINS – Associated Press
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster won his party’s nomination for a second full term on Tuesday, as five Democratic gubernatorial candidates vied for their party’s nomination.
If McMaster wins the general election in November and completes his term, he will become the longest-serving governor in state history.
The governor beat Harrison Musselwhite, a trucker and former businessman who said he was running to allow the open carry of firearms, prevent any government vaccination mandates and eliminate income taxes from the ‘State.
McMaster has mostly let his government campaign, reminding voters how booming the state’s economy is and how he tried to carefully tailor COVID-19 restrictions when the pandemic began. He raised $5 million for his re-election bid.
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South Carolina governors are limited to two four-year terms, but if McMaster wins the November primaries and elections, he will have the chance to serve an unprecedented 10 years. That’s because he automatically rose to lieutenant governor in January 2017 when Nikki Haley resigned to take up a post in President Donald Trump’s administration. McMaster served Haley’s final two years before being elected full in 2018.
Five candidates are seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination: former United States House member Joe Cunningham, state senator Mia McLeod, health care administrator Carlton Boyd, barber and musician Calvin “CJ Mack” McMillan and Vietnam veteran and former postman William H. “Cowboy” Williams.
Most of the attention was focused on Cunningham and McLeod, who also raised the most money. Cunningham received $1.8 million, while McLeod received approximately $500,000.
Both candidates spent time at local party rallies, trying to generate popular support and pointing out their differences with McMaster rather than each other. In their only debate on Friday after early voting ended, Cunningham and McLeod again spent more time targeting the Republican governor than they did their three Democratic opponents – only one of whom responded to the invitation to the debate.
McLeod also had a personal Twitter tiff with House Democratic Minority Leader Todd Rutherford suggesting infidelity and nepotism after Rutherford endorsed Cunningham and said McLeod had done little to the during his 10 years in the General Assembly.
McLeod often presents herself as the first black woman to run for governor of South Carolina, although she says her main goal is not to make history, but to make a difference. She said South Carolina needs an alternative to the string of “lightweight Republican” Democratic men who have run and lost the last five gubernatorial races.
Cunningham campaigned with a number of loud promises such as legalizing sports betting and recreational marijuana use.
He also insists he is in the best position to beat McMaster. Cunningham cites his ideas and his youth, and has repeatedly pointed out the 35-year age gap between him and the governor. Cunningham is 40 years old. McMaster is 75 years old. Cunningham also argues that everything the incumbent governor hopes to accomplish with four more years of public service should have been done in his first four decades as a politician.
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