Gov. Henry McMaster appears to have survived a runoff vote on Tuesday, clinching his party’s nomination despite a surprisingly strong challenge from a political newcomer.
The Associated Press projected McMaster would win the vote around 9:20 pm, as the governor enjoyed a 54 percent to 46 percent lead over Greenville businessman John Warren.
The governor campaigned heavily on his connections with President Donald Trump, even getting the president to speak on his behalf in an event the day before polls opened. McMaster was the first elected official to endorse Trump shortly before the 2016 South Carolina presidential primary, back when he was still lieutenant governor.
“We’ve got a great, great state,” he told supporters after his victory was announced. “But our team right now extends from the White House to the Statehouse to your house. And that’s the most powerful team there is.”
However, the governor had to rely on winning a majority of the votes outside the Republican-heavy Upstate. Warren clinched the vote in every county along the I-85 Corridor with the exception of small Cherokee County. Warren dominated in Greenville County, receiving almost three votes for every one McMaster received. An impressive result considering that few Republican voters even knew who Warren was when he entered the race just four months ago.
“While tonight’s results were not what we had hoped, we’ve started a movement in South Carolina,” he told supporters after conceding. “And that movement is bigger than any one election. Conservatives across this state have united. And they want to take their government back.”
Warren’s campaign surged into second during the June 12 primary, as the businessman with no previous political experience was able to use a strong Upstate presence to jump ahead of three other Republican challengers. Warren finished with 28 percent of the vote in the initial primary, 14 percentage points behind McMaster’s 42.
That Upstate presence still went for Warren again Tuesday, but McMaster swept nearly every county outside the region.