Gov. Nikki Haley’s announcement Wednesday that she will likely be resigning her office next year to take a position in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration means that Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster will be next in line to become South Carolina’s 117th governor.
McMaster, a mainstay in South Carolina Republican politics for nearly four decades, is 69 years old and would be the oldest person to serve as governor in the Palmetto State since James F. Byrnes left office in 1955 at age 72. He would also be the oldest person entering the post since South Carolina became a state.
The Republican did not wish to comment about his potential future as governor on Wednesday, instead congratulating Haley for her nomination.
“Today is indeed a great day for South Carolina,” McMaster said in a Facebook post. “In selecting Governor Nikki Haley to serve as United States Ambassador to the United Nations, President-Elect Donald Trump has again demonstrated his determination to make America greater than ever before. Governor Haley will be an inspiration to all who believe in the American dream, at home and around the world. South Carolina is bursting with talent, and today we swell with pride that one of our daughters is preparing to step into history on the world stage. Mrs. McMaster joins me in offering our heartiest congratulations.”
McMaster was the first statewide politician to endorse Trump in this year’s Republican primary, backing the then-frontrunner in January at a time when most conservatives kept their distance amid concerns over Trump’s positions and forecasts that he would not last in the race. He remained a loyal Trump ally and continued to preach unity at SCGOP events despite the divide between many Republican leaders and their own nominee.
A Columbia attorney, McMaster was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the U.S. Attorney for South Carolina from 1981 until 1985. He had unsuccessful runs for the Senate and lieutenant governor in 1986 and 1990, respectively. In 1993, he was elected as chairman of then-rising South Carolina Republican Party and held that post for nine years. In 2002, he finally won an election to be South Carolina’s attorney general and remained in the office for eight years. He sought the GOP nomination for governor in 2010, but lost in the primary to then-State Rep. Nikki Haley. He stayed out of the spotlight for four years before reentering politics to run for lieutenant governor in 2014, easily winning the office.
McMaster was fined by the State Ethics Commission in March and ordered to repay more than $73,000 in campaign contributions. The commission ruled McMaster had improperly sought the money from his existing donors to retire a campaign debt after losing the 2010 governor’s race. McMaster’s attorney at the time said the candidate had not been aware of the law.