COLUMBIA — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, was forced into a runoff for the Republican gubernatorial nomination Tuesday.
McMaster was the top vote-getter in primary voting but failed to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff. Now, he and Greenville businessman John Warren will face off in a second contest on June 26. The winner will face longtime state Rep. James Smith in November. Smith won the Democratic nomination on Tuesday after leading the pack in fundraising, endorsements and name recognition.
The GOP vote tested the heft of Trump's endorsement in South Carolina, where McMaster became governor early last year following the departure of Nikki Haley to serve as U.N. ambassador. As lieutenant governor, McMaster was the nation's first statewide elected official to back Trump ahead of South Carolina's early presidential primary.
With Haley's early departure, McMaster was elevated to the governorship he'd long sought when the president-elect cleared the path. Now, McMaster has had the last year and a half to develop the mantle of an incumbent, tallying up economic development announcements and championing issues aligned with the president's priorities, such as clamping down on sanctuary cities and restricting funding for groups affiliated with abortions.
He's seeking a full term in the office that eluded him in 2010, when McMaster lost a four-way primary to Haley. He was elected lieutenant governor in 2014.
Warren, who only entered the race in February, served as a Marine and has largely self-funded his campaign, contributing more than $3 million toward his coffers.
On the Democrat side, Smith defeated Charleston consultant Phil Noble and Florence attorney Marguerite Willis. Smith has served in the state Legislature for 22 years. He was a JAG officer in the Army Reserve and South Carolina Army National Guard but resigned his commission after the Sept. 11 attacks to enlist in the infantry.
Smith has selected fellow state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell as his running mate.