McMaster, Cunningham Win Primary; compete against each other in November

Colombia, SC — Former US Rep. Joe Cunningham won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination on Tuesday and set up a showdown in November 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 to have flipped a Republican seat in a major race in the past decade, a victory that earned him a term in the US House of Representatives. He’s made big promises, including legalization recreational use of marijuana and sports betting. The candidate has also repeatedly highlighted the 35-year age difference between himself and the governor. Cunningham is 40. 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 celebration.

McMaster is running for a second four-year term. Prior to his first election, he rose from his previous role as lieutenant governor to complete the last two years of former Governor Nikki Haley’s tenure. If he wins and completes a second full term, he becomes the longest-serving governor in the history of the state. Haley resigned to take a job in then-President Donald Trump’s administration.


Abortion could be a key issue in November. Cunningham frequently says he would veto a stricter abortion ban in South Carolina that could follow a US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion. Republicans barely have a two-thirds majority in the General Assembly, so they couldn’t override his veto.

McMaster has promised to sign into law all legislation restricting abortion, including a total ban on the procedure.

The Democrats have not won the governor’s race in South Carolina since 1998.

In Tuesday’s GOP primary, McMaster defeated Harrison “Trucker Bob” Musselwhite, a trucker and former businessman who said he is running to allow open carry guns, thwart any government vaccination requirements and eliminate state income taxes.

McMaster let his administration do most of his campaigning, reminding voters how he tried to carefully adjust COVID-19 restrictions early in the pandemic and how the state’s economy is booming while the Democratic administration in Washington struggles with inflation Has.


“South Carolina is now on the way to being at the top of the world,” said McMaster at his victory celebration on Tuesday.

He has Raised $5 million for his re-election application.

“I want to thank you again for this great win tonight. And we’re looking for another one,” said McMaster, who also won a race for attorney general during his four decades in politics. He ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 1986 against the late Ernest “Fritz” Hollings.

Cunningham congratulated McMaster on his win before being jabbed for his age.

“Henry McMaster is not just a career politician. He is an eternal politician. He worked in the Halls of Congress before I was born,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham defeated Senator Mia McLeod, health administrator Carlton Boyd, hairstylist and musician Calvin “CJ Mack” McMillan, and Vietnam veteran and former postal worker William H. “Cowboy” Williams.


Most of the attention had been focused on Cunningham and McLeod, who had raised the most money. Cunningham received $1.8 million while McLeod took in about $500,000.

McLeod often introduced himself as her first black woman to run for governor in South Carolina, although she said her primary purpose in running isn’t to make history, but to make a difference. She said South Carolina needs an alternative to the lineup of Democratic men of “Republican light” who have run and lost the last five gubernatorial races.

Cunningham’s answer?

“I’m a different kind of Democrat. And I will be a different kind of governor.”


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Sarah Y. Kim

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