SC Gov. Henry McMaster votes in 2018 election
The race to become South Carolina’s next governor has dominated the news in the run-up to Election Day. But the contest between Republican Gov. Henry McMaster and Democratic state Rep. James Smith is just one race that’s on the ballot this year.
Besides the governor, six statewide constitutional officers will be elected Nov. 6, including five contested races. All seven members of the state’s delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives are up for election this year as well. Two of those races have “open” seats — meaning the incumbent is not on the ballot, seeking re-election — the most since 2010.
If you haven’t been paying attention — and don’t worry, it’s been a busy fall — here’s what you need to know before you cast your ballot.
The most high-profile non-gubernatorial race in South Carolina is the race to be the Palmetto State’s top law enforcement officer.
Alan Wilson, a Lexington Republican, has held the post for the last eight years. He has focused on anti-domestic violence initiatives and combating human trafficking, as well as national efforts to overturn Obamacare or other federal initiatives opposed by conservatives.
But Wilson has also been criticized, too. A state grand jury, for instance, said he interfered in its investigation into S.C. State House corruption, which targeted Wilson’s longtime political consultant.
Wilson’s Democratic opponent, Constance Anastopoulo, is a College of Charleston law professor and the wife of prominent attorney Akim Anastopoulo. She has been critical of Wilson’s ethics record, outspoken in her support of equal rights for women and promises, if elected, to address the state’s opioid crisis by targeting drug manufacturers.
Molly Spearman is running for a second term as head of the state’s Department of Education, even as the Saluda Republican — and former S.C. House member — supports a constitutional amendment on the ballot this November to make her job an appointed position, starting in 2022.
Spearman’s road to re-election got easier when her Democratic opponent, former college professor Israel Romero of Spartanburg, withdrew from the race after it was revealed he had a felony conviction for the unauthorized practice of law. That conviction prevents Romero from serving in office.
After Romero’s withdrawal, Charleston teacher Michele Phillips announced a write-in bid for the job. “Democracy only works when voters have a choice,” she said. If elected, Phillips says she wants to focus on funding inequities between affluent and poor S.C. schools, and “make advocacy for teachers and children a top priority.”
Secretary of state
Mark Hammond is running for his fifth term as secretary of state. The Spartanburg Republican is essentially the state’s official recordkeeper, handling business records, municipal incorporations and charity regulations.
The normally low-profile office was the target of criticism this year when it was revealed the state seal had not been attached to a decade’s worth of legislation, one of the secretary’s duties and a technical requirement for the bills to become law. However, the controversy did not stop Hammond from defeating three opponents in June’s GOP primary.
Hammond faces Democrat Melvin Whittenburg of Columbia, a retired U.S. Army major who previously worked for ExxonMobil, on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Lexington Republican Curtis Loftis is running for his third term as South Carolina’s treasurer.
Loftis long has railed against deficiencies in the pension system for state workers and retirees. Last year, however, lawmakers removed Loftis from the board that oversees the pension system’s investments.
Loftis faces two opponents on the Nov. 6 ballot — Democrat Rosalyn Glenn of Wellford, a former banking administrator and financial consultant, and public accountant Sarah Work of the centrist American Party.
This is the least competitive of the statewide races this year.
GOP incumbent Richard Eckstrom of Lexington County is running unopposed for a fifth term as comptroller general. Eckstrom also did not face any primary opposition on his way to another term.
Eckstrom has been the state’s comptroller general — its top accountant and fiscal watchdog — since 2003. He previously was state treasurer from 1995 to 1999.
There’s no Democrat in the race, but Republican Hugh Weathers of Bowman faces opposition in his bid for a fourth term running the state’s Department of Agriculture.
Weathers has two challengers — Green Party candidate David Edmond and the United Citizens Party’s Chris Nelums.
Weathers was appointed to the job in 2005, after former agriculture commissioner Charles Sharpe was indicted in connection to a cockfighting ring.
The race to succeed U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, has become the most competitive race for Congress in South Carolina this year.
For much of the campaign, Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney, has had a fundraising lead over state Rep. Katie Arrington, R-Summerville. Arrington knocked off former Gov. Sanford in a tight Republican primary in June, arguing Sanford was not supportive enough of President Donald Trump.
Cunningham has received some support from national Democrats hoping to flip a seat from red to blue, and he also has picked up the endorsement of several coastal mayors because of his opposition to offshore drilling.
Arrington, meanwhile, received a lot of media attention after she was hospitalized for two weeks after a deadly head-on collision in June that took her off the campaign trail right after her primary win. It was six weeks before she could walk again without a cast on her foot.
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson is the longest-serving Republican in South Carolina’s congressional delegation. The Springdale Republican is running for his 10th term in office representing his Midlands district.
The incumbent is using his seniority in the House in a bid to become the top Republican on the Foreign Affairs Committee, where Wilson has served for years. He also is using his position to try to save the MOX nuclear plant threatened with closure in Aiken, which is in his district.
The Democrat facing Wilson this time out is Sean Carrigan, a U.S. Army veteran and Chapin real estate agent. Carrigan hopes to unite progressives and moderate Republicans in the district. He has tried to make issues of Wilson telling a satirical TV show that he supported arming schoolchildren and the State House corruption controversy surrounding his son, Attorney General Alan Wilson.
West Columbia liquor store owner Sonny Narang is also running as the American Party candidate.
Laurens Republican Jeff Duncan is running for his fifth term representing this Upstate district. Duncan is a staunch conservative in a deeply Republican district who has supported the agenda of President Donald Trump.
He faces a challenge from Democrat Mary Geren, a teacher from Anderson who is running as a supporter of education, as well as universal health care and other progressive causes.
Also running is American Party candidate David Moore of Salem, a Vietnam veteran who worked for the Library of Congress and calls the two main parties “pro-corporate, pro-offshoring jobs and pro-war” on his website.
This race attracted the largest number of candidates in South Carolina this year. After U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, announced he would not seek re-election, 18 candidates ran in the June primary to succeed Gowdy — 13 Republicans and five Democrats.
In the end, state Sen. William Timmons of Greenville defeated former Sen. Lee Bright of Spartanburg in a runoff to become the GOP nominee. Timmons is a former prosecutor running on a platform of combating illegal immigration, protecting the Second Amendment and rebuilding the military.
The Democrat in the race in Brandon Brown, a former university official who is running against President Donald Trump’s tariffs as a threat to BMW, a major manufacturer in the Upstate district. He also has focused on health care and education.
The third candidate in the race is American Party candidate Guy Furay, an insurance agent.
This race features a rematch of last year’s special election.
After U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney resigned to become Trump’s budget director, Republican Ralph Norman of Rock Hill defeated Democrat Archie Parnell of Sumter in a 2017 special election. The race was so close — within 3 percentage points — that Parnell decided to try again this year.
But Parnell’s campaign was rocked when it was revealed he hit his now ex-wife 45 years ago. Parnell still won the Democratic primary and is receiving the backing of some local Democrats, even as national Democrats backed away from the campaign.
Norman has also made headlines this year by placing a gun on a table at a meet-and-greet with members of the Moms Demand Action gun-control group, and making a joke about Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg being “groped” during discussion of Brett Kavanaugh, the president’s controversial Supreme Court nominee.
Also running is Constitution Party candidate Michael Chandler.
Jim Clyburn has held this seat since 1992, making the Columbia Democrat — the lone Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation — South Carolina’s longest-serving congressman. This year, Clyburn is running for his 14th term in the House.
Opposing Clyburn are Republican Gerhard Gressmann, a pastor and veteran who says Clyburn’s seniority hasn’t done enough to help 6th District residents, and Green Party candidate Bryan Pugh.
Clyburn — already the third highest-ranking member of the House’s Democratic leadership — could be an even more powerful in the next Congress. He has mentioned the possibility of running for speaker if the Democrats regain the majority in the House and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi does not again seek the post.
Republican Tom Rice of Myrtle Beach has represented the state’s newest congressional district since it was created in 2012.
This year, he faces a challenge from Democratic state Rep. Robert Williams of Darlington, who is seeking a promotion to the U.S. House from the S.C. House.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, Rice is pushing for completion of Interstate 73 to Myrtle Beach, a stalled infrastructure project that, he says, could serve as a hurricane evacuation route.