Editorial: Henry McMaster is the clear choice for SC lieutenant governor

05/19/2014 9:00 PM

05/19/2014 6:58 PM

TWO YEARS AGO, S.C. voters overwhelmingly voted to let gubernatorial candidates select their running mates, rather than being stuck on the ballot with someone not of their choosing and, oftentimes, in office with a lieutenant governor of a different philosophy.

It was the first of several changes we need to make to our constitution, which was packed with extra statewide elected officials as part of post-Reconstruction leaders’ determination to keep the governor weak, so a black person couldn’t accomplish anything if he managed to get elected.

The Legislature’s refusal to change this is why voters are electing the director of the state Agriculture Department and the state Education Department and the state’s military department, among other functionaries who ought to be appointed by the governor.

Unfortunately, we must elect an autonomous lieutenant governor one last time. Fortunately, the choice in the Republican primary is extremely easy: former Attorney General Henry McMaster.

Although legislators have made up some duties for the office, the only reason to have a lieutenant governor is to have someone available to take over if the governor is unable to finish her term. So it stands to reason that we ought to elect someone we would be willing to elect as governor.

When we endorsed Mr. McMaster four years ago for the Republican nomination for governor, we described him as “a candidate who has a record of bringing people together to work collaboratively toward creative solutions to difficult problems, who has shown admirable political courage and on occasion come up with bold initiatives, who exudes an infectious optimism about our state’s potential, and who has demonstrated the ability to work well with the Legislature.”

We were impressed by his work as attorney general and concluded that “if he has demonstrated anything in the past eight years, it’s that he can rise to the challenges and opportunities of his office.”

We likewise have been impressed by the way Mr. McMaster has used his time out of office, most notably by working tirelessly with his fellow former attorney general, Travis Medlock, to develop a blueprint for ethics reform that has drawn praise from anyone who is serious about improving our government. If our Legislature ever manages to reform our inadequate ethics law, he will deserve a good deal of credit.

There also is a very practical consideration that puts him ahead of his competitors: We know him. We know what to expect from him. He has lived a very public life for three decades. We know the sorts of choices he makes when he is called on to balance his duties vs. what might be politically popular. He has a record of accomplishments and failures that we can judge. And on the balance, what we know about him is reassuring.

We have no such knowledge about his opponents. Two have never run for office before; most South Carolinians had never even heard of them until now. The third has run before, but he’s never held office, and mostly what we know is who his daddy was. We endorsed him when he ran for this office before, but that was a very different race. One without a candidate as attractive as Mr. McMaster.

South Carolinians have not always made the best choices in selecting a lieutenant governor. In our last opportunity, we owe it to ourselves to get it right. In the June 10 Republican primary, Henry McMaster is the clear right choice.

In their own words

We asked the candidates for lieutenant governor to complete a questionnaire as part of our endorsement process. You can read their answers at thestate.com/1107.

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