With Trump's Help, South Carolina Governor Wins Runoff

by | June 27, 2018

By Maayan Schechter

Two Columbia natives and State House veterans will face one another in the November general election for S.C. governor.

Gov. Henry McMaster won the GOP runoff for governor Tuesday, putting him -- and his nominee for lieutenant governor, Pamela Evette of Travelers Rest -- in line to face Democratic nominee state Rep. James Smith -- and his pick for lieutenant governor, state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell of Lancaster -- in November.

A look at that three keys to the McMaster-Smith race in November:

1. Who best frames the issues?

All politics is local, they say.

State Sen. Vincent Sheheen, the Camden Democrat who was his party's nominee for governor in 2010 and 2014, is advising his friend Smith to focus on kitchen-table issues, issues that affect South Carolinians in their everyday life.

However, Republicans will try to nationalize the race for governor.

President Donald Trump stumped for McMaster in Cayceon Monday -- repaying McMaster for his endorsement before the 2016 S.C. GOP presidential primary. Trump could reappear in the fall, when the McMaster-Smith race heats up. Meanwhile, McMaster will be telling anyone who will listen that he should keep his job because he has the ear of the commander-in-chief, who is popular among S.C. GOP voters.

Smith must do two things to counter.

He must convince S.C. voters that his stance on S.C. issues outweighs a presidential endorsement, some observers say. At the same time, however, he needs to capture support from the "blue wave" that is predicted nationally, powered by voters strongly opposed to Trump and his policies, to bring its energy into his campaign.

2. The Quinn issue may not be over

On the campaign trail, McMaster and Smith try to avoid talking about their once close relationships with GOP consultant Richard Quinn Sr. and his son, former state Rep. Rick Quinn, who found themselves at the center of a State House corruption probe.

As former House minority leader, Smith worked side-by-side with former House Majority Leader Quinn, who pleaded guilty in December to misconduct in office and resigned his seat.

Meanwhile, S.C. GOP political godfather Richard Quinn was McMaster's campaign consultant for decades. In December, the elder Quinn agreed to testify before the state grand jury investigating State House corruption as part of a plea-bargain deal.

So, the "Quinn issue" may be uncomfortable for both candidates. However, not all S.C. Democrats see it that way. They would welcome an ethics-charged campaign, making poster boys of the Republican Quinns.

"Congrats to Rick Quinn's dream ticket of McMaster and Wilson," the S.C. Democratic Party tweeted Tuesday. "They'll generate as much energy as VC Summer heading into November."

Meanwhile, the Democratic Governors Association called McMaster "a corrupt political insider," adding, "even Republicans are fed up with the corruption in the State House."

3. Defend their stances on abortion

The debate over abortion rights was a fixture in the GOP primary.

Despite not being in that primary, Democrat Smith already has been on the receiving end of jabs from McMaster over his pro-choice stance, a contrast the pro-life McMaster is sure to make again in the months leading up to November.

But Smith -- who has the support of Planned Parenthood -- could try to appeal to moderate voters who might have grown tired of hearing the GOP candidates argue over whether rape or incest victims or ill pregnant women should have access to abortion.

(c)2018 The State (Columbia, S.C.)