The 2018 GOP gubernatorial field was expected to be crowded, with at least a half dozen candidates.
But if Gov. Nikki Haley is confirmed as U.N. ambassador, one of those potential candidates — Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster — would run as an incumbent in two years. Incumbents have the benefit of name recognition, and a challenger would face an uphill battle, especially with McMaster having two years experience in the role.
“Henry was always going to be a formidable candidate,” said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, adding McMaster has impeccable Republican credentials.
“If somebody was going to run, I think that their plans are the same now,” said Davis, who was a chief of staff to former Gov. Mark Sanford.
Davis, who is a potential candidate, said he is weighing whether he can afford to put in the time necessary to successfully run for governor. He said he will assess next spring.
Meanwhile, the first candidate to officially announce a 2018 bid — House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope, R-York — said he wouldn’t work against McMaster.
“I want to do anything I can to work with him for the betterment of this state,” said Pope. Pope added that he would look as things evolve and see where he needs to be in 2018.
Another potential 2018 candidate, former Department of Health and Environmental Control chief Catherine Templeton of Charleston, said Wednesday she had planned to make a formal announcement about the governor’s race in January.
“This does not change that because I want to serve the state in whatever capacity makes the most sense,” Templeton said.
Meanwhile, Templeton could rise in government much more quickly depending on how McMaster’s replacement as lieutenant governor is chosen.
On Wednesday, some state officials said they believed McMaster could appoint his replacement because of a 2014 state constitutional amendment that allows the governor and lieutenant governor to run on the same ticket.
However, other officials say the Senate’s president pro tempore would become lieutenant governor.
Rumors circulated that if McMaster can choose his replacement, he might select Templeton.
But Templeton would not say if she had been approached by McMaster for the job.
Meanwhile, other potential 2018 candidates could be in limbo, including former Democratic Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, who switched political parties to run in two years.
Other potential candidates rumored to be interested in running include: Columbia real estate developer Bill Stern and Republican office holders U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land; U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of Charleston; and Attorney General Alan Wilson of Lexington.
Staff writer Cynthia Roldan contributed.