Republicans swept the state’s nine constitutional offices on Tuesday, winning each race by double digits.
Republican Henry McMaster defeated Democratic candidate Bakari Sellers to become South Carolina’s new lieutenant governor. With 98 percent of the precincts reporting, McMaster won with a convincing 59 percent of the vote to Sellers’ 41 percent.
McMaster, a former state Attorney General, U.S. Attorney, and chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, ran on a platform based on experience. This was McMaster’s second run for lieutenant governor following an unsuccessful 1990 race. He had campaigned on his executive experience managing the Attorney General’s Office.
This was Sellers’ first time running for a statewide office. The Bamberg County Democrat gave up his seat in the South Carolina House of Representatives to run for the state’s number two position.
Both men were running to replace current Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill, a Democrat who has been acting as an interim for the position since his predecessor Glenn McConnell resigned to become College of Charleston president in June.
This was the last election where voters directly elected candidates to the position. Starting in 2018, the governor and lieutenant governor will run on the same ticket.
Republican Molly Spearman will be South Carolina’s next top education official.
With 98 percent of precincts reporting, the executive director of the South Carolina Association of School Administrators received 57 percent of the vote to 39 percent for Democratic education consultant Tom Thompson and 4 percent for American Party high school administrator Ed Murray.
“I want folks to know that the Republican Party is about education,” she said in her victory speech. “And we know the connection between economic development and great schools. So… the first thing that I’m going to do is bring everybody together, to work together. This is a hard job, it’s going to take everybody working together.”
She will replace current State Superintendent of Education Mick Zais, who did not seek reelection after just four years on the job. Spearman, a former Democratic legislator, was a surprise winner in the GOP primary this June. But she cruised to an almost surprisingly easy win over Thompson, a former SC State University education dean who struggled with fundraising and voter name recognition.
Secretary of State
Republican Mark Hammond will remain Secretary of State, adding another four years to his 12-year tenure, after defeating Democrat Ginny Deerin Tuesday.
With 96 percent of precincts in, Hammond obtained an overwhelming 60 percent of the vote to Deerin’s 40 percent.
Deerin, a nonprofit management consultant, was always a longshot. But the Democrat managed to pick up surprising endorsements from the fiscal conservative organization SC Club for Growth and former South Carolina First Lady Jenny Sanford. She got their support by being very critical of the incumbent, saying Hammond commuted from Spartanburg to his office in Columbia only three days a week.
Hammond responded by saying he does not take days off, but instead works from home and goes to events throughout South Carolina.
The Secretary of State’s Office handles many of the state’s business documents, such as incorporations and notaries. It also regulates nonprofits in South Carolina.
Republican incumbent Alan Wilson was reelected Tuesday night, defeating his Democratic challenger Parnell Diggs by an overwhelming 61 percent to 39 percent majority.
During his tenure, Wilson got minor national attention for lawsuits that his office had against the federal government on issues such as the Affordable Care Act and Yucca Mountain. He is also defending the ban on same-sex marriage in the state constitution.
Wilson won handily despite doing very little actual campaigning the past year. “I believe if you do your job in your office, that is campaigning,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Because you were elected to do something. And if you go out and do it, the people will recognize and reward you for it.”
Diggs is a Garden City attorney who has served as president of the National Federation of the Blind in South Carolina. Suffering from detached retinas himself, Diggs still handles cases at his own firm. He has criticized Wilson for “playing politics” with lawsuits against the Obama Administration.
Wilson headed the indictments against former Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard and South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell since winning office in 2010. He did withdraw from the Harrell case before a grand jury handed down the indictments.
State government veteran and Republican Richard Eckstrom defeated Democratic nominee Kyle Herbert by a substantial 60 percent to 40 percent advantage Tuesday, successfully holding his position as Comptroller General.
Eckstrom served as the state Treasurer before winning the election to his current office in 2002. Herbert is an accountant in the health care industry from Lexington and called for more integrity in the office.
During the race, Herbert brought up ethics complaints that had been filed against Eckstrom. Eckstrom, however, noted that those claims were dismissed by the State Ethics Commission.
Commissioner of Agriculture
Republican incumbent Hugh Weathers had the best returns of any candidate in a statewide race, dominating two minor party opponents to pick up 80 percent of the vote on Tuesday. United Citizens Party candidate Dave Edmond picked up 11 percent support while American Party nominee and Columbia farmer’s market operator Emile DeFelice received 9 percent of the vote.
Weathers, whose family operates a dairy farm and trucking firm in Bowman, was first appointed to the post after his predecessor resigned to face bribery charges in 2004. This is his third successful reelection bid since then.
The South Carolina Democratic Party did not field a candidate in this race.
State Treasurer Curtis Loftis and Adjutant General Bob Livingston each ran unopposed on Tuesday night, having easily dispatched their only challengers in the GOP primary. Both men first took office following the 2010 election.