South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster won a historic reelection bid Tuesday as he faced voters one last time in his four-decade political career and they gave him a chance to be the longest-serving governor the state has ever had.
McMaster, 75, defeated Democrat Joe Cunningham, who repeatedly highlighted the 35-year age gap with his opponent.
If he completes his second term, McMaster would serve as governor for 10 years, longer than any other executive in the state’s history.
McMaster’s argument for reelection has been simple — if you like what you’ve seen so far, I’ll give you more. He has touted the booming economy and his willingness to fight Democratic President Joe Biden when needed.
This was McMaster’s sixth time asking South Carolina voters to choose him over a Democrat in November. He lost his first two races — including getting just 36% of the vote against U.S. Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings in 1986. He won his last five elections as Republicans took over South Carolina.
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A Democrat hasn’t been elected governor in the state since 1998.
Prior to McMaster’s first election, he ascended from his previous role of lieutenant governor to finish the final two years of former Gov. Nikki Haley’s term. If he completes a second full term, those 10 years will make him the longest-serving governor in the state’s history. Haley resigned to join then-President Donald Trump’s administration.
Cunningham, 40, took up McMaster’s age head-on, proposing a constitutional amendment to require South Carolina officeholders to leave their jobs at age 72. While a direct shot at McMaster, it is also was a shot at Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the 82-year-old House majority whip and at 79-year-old President Joe Biden.
Cunningham also said while campaigning that the state needed bold change, suggesting legalizing and taxing marijuana and sports gambling and using that money to eliminate the state income tax.
The starkest difference between the two candidates was on abortion. McMaster said he would likely sign any additional restrictions from the General Assembly beyond the current six-week abortion ban under a state Supreme Court review.
Cunningham said he would veto any measure like that and Republicans are just below the two-thirds margin needed to override a veto in both the House and Senate.