Politics & Government

Gov. McMaster v. Warren and other races: 10 things to know about Tuesday’s SC runoffs

SC Gov. Henry McMaster reacts to his win and runoff in the primary

South Carolina governor Henry McMaster received the most votes in the primary election but will be in a runoff with John Warren.
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South Carolina governor Henry McMaster received the most votes in the primary election but will be in a runoff with John Warren.

S.C. voters will go to the polls Tuesday to cast a vote in runoffs.

Polls open at 7 a.m. to pick the Republican nominees for two statewide posts — governor and attorney general — and some U.S. House and S.C seats. Separately, Democrats in some areas of the state will hold runoffs for the U.S. House and S.C. House.

Here are 10 things to know about Tuesday's runoffs:

1. Can I vote in the runoffs?

Yes, assuming there is a runoff in your area.

There are two statewide GOP runoffs — for governor and attorney general — and some local races, so Republicans statewide have a runoff that they can vote in. The only Democratic runoffs, however, are local — in three U.S. House districts and for some S.C. House seats. That means there are no Democratic runoffs in parts of the state.

2. I voted in the Democratic primary. Can I vote in the Republican runoffs?

No.

Likewise, voters who cast ballots in the June 12 Republican primary can't vote in the Democratic runoffs Tuesday. However, any registered voter who did not vote in either party's primary can vote in either party's runoff Tuesday.

3. Who is running for the GOP nomination for governor?

Gov. Henry McMaster of Columbia and Greenville businessman John Warren.

Traditionally, incumbents easily brush off primary challengers. But McMaster is seeking his first full term as governor, having landed his dream job in January 2017 when then-Gov. Nikki Haley resigned to become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations as part of the Trump administration.

McMaster finished first in the five-way GOP primary on June 12, winning 42 percent of the vote. But that was not enough to keep the 71-year-old Richland Republican out of a runoff with Warren, who surged at the end of the primary campaign. Warren — an outsider to S.C. politics before he announced his candidacy in February — won nearly 28 percent of the vote.

Tuesday's GOP winner will face the Democratic nominee — state Rep. James Smith of Columbia — and American candidate Martin Barry of York in November's general election.

President Donald Trump shows his support for South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster on the day before a runoff against gubernatorial challenger John Warren.

SC Republican gubernatorial candidate John Warren talks about President's Trumps visit at a West Columbia Shoney's.

4. Who is the favorite?

McMaster.

The latest poll put McMaster's support at more than 60 percent among GOP voters. But that poll may overstate the governor's lead. That is because it was taken before Warren was endorsed by the third- and fourth-place finishers in the GOP's five-way June 12 primary — Mount Pleasant's Catherine Templeton and Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant of Anderson

Unlike Warren, McMaster has statewide name recognition because of his decades in state politics. Also, McMaster's short stint in the Governor's Mansion has put him in position to oversee — and claim credit for — the state's economic growth.

Finally, McMaster has the backing of President Donald Trump, who is popular among S.C. Republicans. In October, Trump stumped for McMaster in the Upstate — a conservative GOP hotspot. On Monday — the day before the runoff — the former New York real estate mogul will take Air Force One to Columbia, hoping to round up last-minute support for McMaster. Separately, Vice President Mike Pence visited South Carolina on Saturday, campaigning for McMaster.

5. Does Warren have a chance?

Sure.

But ...

Warren's success in the June 12 GOP primary has some analysts — even GOP voters — scratching their heads.

The 39-year-old Marine never has run for elected office before and only stepped onto the S.C. political scene in February. However, some GOP voters fell in love with Warren's argument that only a political outsider could clean up a corrupt State House culture. (GOP voters love the idea that state government's problems are due to waste and fraud, not the result of chronic underfunding that has failed to keep pace with inflation and population growth.)

Since the June 12 primary, Warren has picked up dozens of endorsements — from Bryant and Templeton, to the GOP's two 4th District runoff candidates to 5th District U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, to legislators to a TV personality. The value of endorsements can be overstated. However, if nothing else, Warren's endorsements show there is a real rift in the S.C. GOP between its establishment wing, led by McMaster, and 40-plus percent of S.C. GOP primary voters.

6. What could keep McMaster from winning?

Scandal.

Warren has been trying desperately to tie McMaster to the State House's two scandals — the $9 billion collapse of the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion project and the ongoing State House corruption probe.

The V.C. Summer project was owned by Cayce-based SCANA, whose employees have contributed more than $100,000 to McMaster's campaign, and the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, whose board chairman is named by the governor.

McMaster counters he has been tough on SCANA regardless of those donations — demanding legislators cut its customers' bills by 18 percent — and notes he fired Santee Cooper's chairman, after forcing the utility to disclose the once-secret Bechtel report, which outlined problems with the V.C. Summer project.

Also, in October, McMaster's former longtime political consultant, GOP godfather Richard Quinn, was indicted in the State House corruption probe. Warren repeatedly has tried to connect McMaster to the corruption investigation. However, McMaster insists the scandal does not involve him.

Still, some GOP voters think Columbia is in need of a major overhaul, led by fresh new ideas and very fresh faces, not a politician who has been in one office or another since the 1980s.

7. What about Warren?

Warren — with all his military commendations and business success — lacks an understanding of the job of governor and its limited powers, critics say.

That has led him to make promises that he cannot keep if elected governor — firing the entire Santee Cooper board, for instance. He also has promised to take actions that already have been taken — creating a long-term plan at the state Transportation Department, which already has one — or actions former governors tried without success, such as defeating powerful legislators.

8. Are there any other statewide runoffs?

Yes, on the GOP ballot.

Alan Wilson — the two-term S.C. attorney general — faces a runoff against state Rep. Todd Atwater in the GOP primary. Both are Lexington Republicans.

Wilson nearly won the primary, taking 49 percent of the vote. Atwater, who is trying to make Wilson's former ties to Quinn an issue, won 30 percent of the primary vote.

The GOP winner will face Democrat Constance Anastopoulo in November.

9. What U.S. House runoffs can I vote in?

It depends on where you live.

In the Midlands, Democratic voters in Lexington and parts of Richland counties can decide between two candidates for the 2nd District seat in the U.S. House: Real estate agent and Army veteran Sean Carrigan and Annabelle Robertson, an attorney and activist.

Robertson came in first in the primary, winning 42 percent of the vote. Carrigan was close behind at 40 percent. Both are vying to challenge longtime U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale, for the 2nd District's congressional seat.

There also are Democratic runoffs in the 4th (Greenville-Spartanburg) and 7th (Grand Strand) districts, and a GOP runoff in the 4th District.

10. Are there runoffs for any S.C. House seats in the Midlands?

Yes.

On the Democratic ballot, state Rep. Joe McEachern of Richland faces newcomer Kambrell Garvin in the District 77 runoff. Each won 36 percent of the vote in a four-way June 12 primary. Only seven votes separated the two.

On the Republican side, businesswoman Paula Rawl Calhoon will face businessman Todd Carnes for Atwater's old seat in Lexington's District 87. Calhoon won nearly 46 percent of the GOP primary vote. Carnes took home 41 percent. The GOP nominee will face Democrat Diane Summers in November.

Maayan Schechter: 803-771-8657, @MaayanSchechter

How to find Tuesday's runoff results

For real-time results, go online to thestate.com.

The S.C. Election Commission also will update its website in real time, with unofficial results from the state's 2,245 voting precincts.

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