The dates and venues for the debates — to be held in October — have not yet been disclosed. More details are expected to be released next week, said McMaster campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg.
A debate between McMaster’s and Smith’s lieutenant governor-running mates — Travelers Rest businesswoman Pamela Evette and state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell of Lancaster, respectively — has not been scheduled.
The debates could occur after some S.C. voters already have cast their ballots in the race to decide South Carolina’s next governor — incumbent Gov. McMaster, a Republican, or Smith, a state representative.
The election is less than 40 days away and absentee voting starts on Oct. 8.
With so few days left until voters head to the polls, some political observers and S.C. voters had started to question whether or when the two candidates — both from Columbia — would debate.
Scheduling debates is “all about politics,” a delicate balance between campaigns and debate organizers, said College of Charleston political scientist Gibbs Knotts.
Both McMaster and Smith skipped a debate or two before their respective party’s June primary. However, both could afford to; they were seen as their party’s presumptive nominee.
Now, McMaster has an edge: He’s a Republican incumbent with name recognition — from running for office for 30-plus years — in a GOP-leaning state. Incumbent candidates “tend to risk more by participating in too many debates,” Knotts said.
Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Smith — lesser known outside Columbia — could benefit from more debates.
“Debates are a chance for candidates to actually talk about ideas, to be on stage together and respond to different points each of them are making,” Knotts added. “That doesn’t happen in a 30-second ad. That doesn’t happen in a campaign speech.”
While details still were being worked on Friday, both candidates said they are ready to take the debate stage.
“I’m very pleased that we’ve reached the point that Henry (McMaster) has agreed to meet me for two debates,” Smith said Friday. “The people of our state deserve to have the opportunity to hear from the candidates, to get the answers that they need to the important issues facing our state. The more debates we have, the better.”
McMaster said Thursday he is prepared to debate Smith, adding, “I know what we need in South Carolina.”
“I know the direction in which we need to go, and that does not include higher taxes, more regulations and things of that nature,” McMaster said. “There’s a stark difference between my opponent and his ... economic and political ideology and mine.”