Republican S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster picked up the endorsement of two pint-sized heroes Wednesday.
McMaster and his lieutenant governor-running mate, Pamela Evette, descended from their red-and-black campaign bus, wrapped by a large photo of the pair, to be greeted by a member of “The Incredibles” and Jack Sparrow from “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
From the trick-or-treaters in Hanahan to a diner in Cayce to an assisted living center in Summerville, McMaster and Evette pledged to cut taxes, regulations and wasteful spending to strengthen South Carolina’s economy and create better paying jobs.
“Buckle your seat belts because, the next four years, we are going to go faster and farther than ever before,” McMaster told a group of roughly 80 supporters, clustered inside The Red Barn at Tanner Plantation in Hanahan for a Lowcountry GOP get-out-the-vote rally.
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The stop was one of three on the first day of a statewide bus tour the McMaster-Evette campaign kicked off Wednesday to rally supporters, heading into the final stretch of Tuesday’s general election.
The governor was joined by Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of Charleston, state Rep. and 1st District Republican congressional candidate Katie Arrington of Summerville, state Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman of Saluda, and local SC House and Senate members.
McMaster, who became governor in January 2017 when Gov. Nikki Haley joined the Trump Administration, is seeking his first full term as governor. He faces state Rep. James Smith, D-Columbia, in Tuesday’s election.
The governor drew applause for helping secure federal money to deepen the Charleston harbor to increase cargo capacity at the Port of Charleston and for pushing successfully to revive plans to complete Interstate 526 over James and Johns islands.
“You know how you spell ‘port’? M-O-N-E-Y,” McMaster said to laughs.
A new Winthrop University poll released Thursday found nearly three-fourths of South Carolina residents feel good about the state of South Carolina’s economy. Many also described their own financial situation as good or excellent and getting better.
And McMaster is taking credit.
Companies have promised to add more than 23,000 jobs and invest $8 billion in the Palmetto State since McMaster assumed office in 2017. Unemployment also has fallen to a record low.
“We’re cooking,” McMaster said to a group of about 50 people gathered at a Lizard’s Thicket restaurant in Cayce. “We have great opportunity in South Carolina if we don’t mess it up. So I say we got the right team. We got the steam. ... We are winning, and we’re going to keep on winning!”
Smith and his running mate, state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell, D-Lancaster, argue focusing on the jobless rate and job growth without considering sluggish wage growth and low workforce participation rates clouds the bigger picture.
McMaster supporter Sarah Brodie isn’t buying that.
“I go to a lot of (Charleston) businesses, and they’re having trouble keeping employees,” said the 61-year-old Brodie, a Hanahan resident who plans to vote for McMaster. “Employees can walk out the door to another job tomorrow. This economy is doing good. I don’t know what his opponent is talking about. As far as I’m concerned, this is the best economy I’ve seen in over eight years.”
‘Build the wall’
McMaster’s supporters, too, said reducing health-care costs, closing Immigration loopholes and securing the border were high on their list of issues influencing their vote in Tuesday’s election.
“Build the wall,” 91-year-old Betty Behler interrupted, during a stop at The Blake at Carnes Crossroads, an assisted-living and memory-care center in Summerville.
Behler said she recently voted a straight-party Republican ticket via absentee ballot. A Florida transplant who moved to the center more than a year ago, said she supports McMaster because he supports and has the backing of President Donald Trump. The president remains fairly popular in conservative South Carolina, particularly among Republicans.
Both Behler and Brodie said they worry about health-care and prescription-drug costs but oppose expanding Medicaid in the state, as Democrat Smith proposes.
Instead, Brodie prefers to scrap the federal health-care law and start over with more input from business leaders across the nation, and allow health plans to sell insurance across state lines.
Smith and Norrell have said their first priority will be accepting federal dollars to expand the joint federal-state Medicaid insurance program for the poor and disabled. They argue the state is leaving money on the table that would improve health outcomes and boost the state’s economy, adding jobs.
South Carolina has rejected expansion for years under GOP leadership due to concerns about straining the state’s budget.
McMaster and Evette argue there are better alternatives, include promoting the use of telemedicine and loosening the restrictions on nurse practitioners so they can do more to improve the health of rural South Carolinians.
‘Incivility’ but ‘friends’
Previous bus tours proved a helpful boost for McMaster in the June GOP primary and ensuing runoff.
From addressing thousands of cheerful country music fans in Myrtle Beach to touting his endorsement from the National Rifle Association at a Columbia gun show, the stops helped the governor pick up new voters and rally his base.
In Bluffton Thursday on another leg of his bus tour, McMaster greeted a group of 50 or so cheering supporters whose clapping competed with Tom Petty’s defiant anthem, “I Won’t Back Down.”
Five days from the election, every chair was filled in the small meeting room of the Hampton Inn & Suites Bluffton-Sun City, located in a part of Beaufort County poised to grow with people and new gated communities.
Trump’s name adorned a few hats and T-shirts among the crowd, some transplants from the Midwest and the Northeast, some retirees with graying hair.
McMaster referred to the recent U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of Associate U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh and what he called the “incivility,” “deception” and “lack of honesty” displayed by Democrats.
But he later called the other side “friends.”
McMaster drew applause when he pledged there would be no offshore drilling off the Palmetto State’s coast. The governor has pushed for an exemption from the Trump administration’s decision to end a ban on offshore drilling.