By JEFFREY COLLINS Associated Press
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Former Rep. Joe Cunningham won the Democratic nomination for governor on Tuesday, setting up a November showdown with Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who easily defeated his opponent in the primary.
Cunningham has touted the fact that he is the only Democrat in the state in the last decade to win a Republican seat in a major race, a victory that gave him a term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He has made big promises, including legalization recreational marijuana use and sports betting. The candidate has also repeatedly highlighted the 35-year age gap between him and the governor. Cunningham is 40 years old. McMaster is 75.
“McMaster is the governor of the past. I’m running to be the governor of the future,” Cunningham said at his victory party.
McMaster is running for a second four-year term. Prior to his first election, he rose from his previous position as Lt. Governor to finish the last two years of former Governor Nikki Haley’s term. If he wins and completes a second full term, he will make him the longest-serving governor in state history. Haley resigned to take a job in then-President Donald Trump’s administration.
People are also reading…
If McMaster wins the November general election and completes the term, he will become the longest serving governor in the history of the state.
Abortion could be a key issue in November. Cunningham frequently says that he would veto any stricter abortion ban in South Carolina that might follow a US Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that established abortion rights across the country. Republicans lack a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly, so they couldn’t override his veto.
McMaster has promised to sign any bill that restricts abortion, including a complete ban on the procedure.
Democrats haven’t won the governor’s race in South Carolina since 1998.
In Tuesday’s Republican primary, McMaster defeated Harrison “Trucker Bob” Musselwhite, a truck driver and former businessman who said he was running to allow open carry of guns, avoid any government vaccination mandates and eliminate state income taxes. .
McMaster mostly let his administration do his campaigning, reminding voters of how he tried to carefully tailor COVID-19 restrictions when the pandemic began and how the state’s economy is booming as the Democratic administration in Washington battles inflation.
“South Carolina is on its way to being on top of the world,” McMaster said Tuesday at his victory party.
He has raised $5 million for his candidacy for re-election.
South Carolina governors are limited to two four-year terms, but if McMaster wins the primary and election in November, he will have a chance to serve an unprecedented 10 years in office. That’s because he automatically rose to the position from his position as lieutenant governor. in January 2017 when Nikki Haley resigned to take a job in then-President Donald Trump’s administration. McMaster served Haley’s last two years before being elected in his own right in 2018.
“I want to thank you again for this great victory tonight. And we’re looking for one more,” said McMaster, who during his four decades in politics also won races for attorney general and lieutenant governor and ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1986 against the late Ernest “Fritz” Hollings. .
Cunningham congratulated McMaster on his victory before criticizing his age.
“Henry McMaster is not just a career politician. He is a politician forever. He was working the halls of Congress before I was born,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham defeated state Senator Mia McLeod, health care administrator Carlton Boyd, hairdresser and musician Calvin “CJ Mack” McMillan, and Vietnam veteran and former postal worker William H. “Cowboy” Williams.
Most of the attention was focused on Cunningham and McLeod, who raised the most money. Cunningham received $1.8 million, while McLeod received around $500,000.
McLeod often presented herself as the first black woman run for governor in South Carolina, though she said her main goal in running was not to make history, but to make a difference. She said South Carolina needed an alternative to the string of “light Republican” Democratic men who have run and lost the last five gubernatorial races.
“I am a different kind of Democrat. And I’m going to be a different kind of governor.”
Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.
Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.