COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster is facing voters one last time in his four-decade political career, asking them to help make him the longest-serving governor the state has ever had.
McMaster is running against Democrat Joe Cunningham, who has repeatedly highlighted the 35-year age gap with his opponent — and how he might be the only person who can stop any attempts to further restrict abortion in the state.
Recent history is on McMaster’s side. He has won four general elections in a row — as attorney general, lieutenant governor and governor — as South Carolina turned consistently red and the state hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since 1998.
McMaster, 75, is seeking a second four-year term. Prior to his 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 wins and 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.
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 state’s booming economy and willingness to fight Democratic President Joe Biden when needed.
Cunningham, 40, took up the age issue 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 a shot at Democratic U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, the 82-year-old House majority whip.
Cunningham said the state needs bold change, suggesting legalizing an taxing marijuana and sports gambling and using that money to eliminate the state income tax.
The starkest difference between the candidates is on abortion. McMaster has said he would likely sign any additional restrictions from the General Assembly beyond the current six-week 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.
This was McMaster’s seventh 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.