With reelection victory, SC Gov. McMaster set to make history

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has successfully defeated Democratic challenger Joe Cunningham and is poised to become the longest-serving governor the state
Published: Nov. 8, 2022 at 7:29 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 8, 2022 at 11:17 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC/AP) - South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has successfully defeated Democratic challenger Joe Cunningham and is poised to become the longest-serving governor the state has ever had, the Associated Press says.

The Associated Press called the race for the 75-year-old McMaster at 8:49 p.m. As of 9:05 p.m., McMaster held 56% of the vote with 29% of precincts reporting.

Cunningham, who served one term as First District Congressman for South Carolina, 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 was 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 sought 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. With his victory, 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.