Trump visit: SC leadership team includes McMaster, handful of lawmakers attend campaign event
Former President Donald Trump held his first 2024 campaign event in South Carolina Saturday at the State House.
Trump announces leadership team
Trump announced his 2024 South Carolina leadership team.
With Gov. Henry McMaster, the leadership team also includes Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette; U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham; U.S. Reps. Russell Fry, William Timmons and Joe Wilson; state Treasurer Curtis Loftis; former S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer; former state lawmaker and U.S. Attorney to South Carolina Peter McCoy; and Ed McMullen, Trump’s former ambassador to Switzerland.
Trump on electric vehicles
Trump on Afghanistan, immigration, crime, windmills and other social issues in his more than 30-minute Saturday remarks.
Included in his remarks, the former president touched on electric vehicles, questioning the Biden administration prioritization of electric vehicles.
“Everyone’s gonna be sitting on the highway, and we’re going to be looking for a little plug in,” Trump said, tweeted by Associated Press reporter Meg Kinnard.
South Carolina political leaders have pushed to expand electric vehicle manufacturing in the state.
Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order to lure more electric vehicle business to the state, and, in recent months, auto companies have announced huge investments to prioritize electric vehicle manufacturing. Recently, Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette helped tout free charging stations at state parks.
“Everyone's gonna be sitting on the highway & we're going to be looking for a little plugin,” Trump says, questioning Biden admin prioritization of electric vehicles.
Gov @henrymcmaster, next to Trump, supports EVs, recently signing an executive order to recruit more biz to SC. pic.twitter.com/F5mqyscU5M
— Meg Kinnard (@MegKinnardAP) January 28, 2023
Trump speaks in South Carolina
Trump, speaking in the State House lobby on the second floor, said he was “thrilled to be back in the great state of South Carolina.”
“South Carolina picks presidents,” he said. “You’ve heard that a little bit before.”
South Carolina is an early primary state in the presidential nominating contest. Trump won South Carolina in 2016. In 2020, the state Republican Party nixed the primary.
Trump announced Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump supporter, will lead his South Carolina leadership team for 2024.
Handful of currently, ex-SC lawmakers show support
Gov. Henry McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette, Sen. Lindsey Graham and House Reps. Russell Fry, William Timmons and Joe Wilson are in attendance.
Aside from dozens of Trump supporters, so are a small handful of state lawmakers, including Senate President Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, and House Speaker Murrell Smith, a Sumter Republican who told reporters at the State House Saturday he is attending in his role as speaker to welcome the former president, though he is not giving remarks and his attendance is not an endorsement, tweeted S.C. ETV’s Gavin Jackson.
Among the Republican lawmakers in attendance also included state Sen. Penry Gustafson, of Kershaw; and state Reps. Melissa Oremus, of Aiken; Bobby Cox, of Greenville; and freshman state Rep. Thomas Beach, R-Anderson, who told The State he’s backing Trump’s bid for president.
“I’m sure we’re going to have some really great candidates and iron sharpens iron. But he’s done the job. I’m so proud of him. And can’t wait for him to go back to the White House,” he said.
Former state Rep. Peter McCoy, a Charleston Republican who was appointed by Trump to be South Carolina’s U.S. attorney, also was seen at Trump’s event.
.@schousespeaker Murrell Smith said he is here in his role as Speaker to welcome the former president to the Statehouse. He is giving no remarks and his presence is not an endorsement. https://t.co/EZQ7lU2hL5
— Gavin Jackson (@GavinJackson) January 28, 2023
Trump was last in South Carolina in March 2022, when he campaigned in Florence to help boost campaigns of now-Rep. Fry and Katie Arrington, a former state lawmaker who unsuccessfully ran against U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace. Arrington attended Trump’s Saturday event, held inside the State House on the second floor, between the House and Senate chambers.
Earlier Saturday, Trump spoke in another early-voting state, New Hampshire, where he touched on his campaign agenda, immigration and crime, the Associated Press reported. Trump is so far the only candidate who has publicly declared his 2024 bid.
Trump, who remains under criminal investigation related to the discovery of documents with classified markings and under state and federal examinations over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, drew early controversy in his campaign when he ate dinner with Holocaust-denying white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West, who has made antisemitic comments.
A handful of other Republicans are likely to get in the presidential ring with Trump.
At least two South Carolina Republicans, former Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott, are among a group of possible 2024 presidential hopefuls. Haley in recent weeks has more aggressively teased a campaign. Scott, who won reelection to the Senate in 2022 for what he says will be his last term, will be at his own event in Washington Saturday, McClatchyDC reported this week.
Speaking to reporters after his New Hampshire campaign stop, Trump said, via Olivia Rubin with ABC News, that Haley called him recently to say “she’d like to consider” a 2024 run. Haley told South Carolina reporters back in April 2021 that she would “not run if President Trump ran.”
As Trump kicks of 2024 campaign, he says Nikki Haley called him the other day to say "she'd like to consider" a 2024 run
"I said look... go by your heart if you want to run," he tells reporters just now. "She's publicly said that I would never run against my president."
— Olivia Rubin (@OliviaRubinABC) January 28, 2023
Pro-Trump supporters, some who were uninvited, lined outside the State House early Saturday for the event. Not everyone who stood in line, however, was able to get into the event.
The Sumter Street side of the State House — most of the public grounds were barricaded Saturday — was open. Only a small number of protesters were seen outside the State House, lined up on the sidewalk facing Gervais Street.
South Carolina ETV is carrying a livestream of Trump’s event.
Reporters Joseph Bustos, Javon Harris and the Associated Press contributed to this report.