Gov. Henry McMaster has won his first full term in office, handily defeating Democratic opponent State Rep. James Smith on Tuesday.
The Republican has served the final two years of former Gov. Nikki Haley’s term. He was able to overcome four GOP challengers in June, although the primary went to a runoff.
“Good things, even better things, are on the way for South Carolina,” he told supporters after the race was called. “South Carolina is the greatest place in the world and we have come far. But we are just getting started good yet.”
With 90 percent of precincts reporting, McMaster had 56 percent of the vote over Smith’s 44 percent. The Associated Press called the result around 9:30 pm.
Smith’s effort continued the ongoing frustration for Democratic candidates in South Carolina, who have not won a governor’s race since Jim Hodges in 1998. The longtime Democratic lawmaker did not seek reelection to his Statehouse seat this year.
In his concession speech, Smith said that the campaign was about the people of South Carolina. “It was never, never about us and our future,” he said. “It was always about the people of our state and their future.”
It will be McMaster’s first election win for the Governor’s Office in two tries. The then-state attorney general lost to Haley in 2010 but was able to win the lieutenant governor’s office four years later. He succeeded Haley after she was appointed by President Donald Trump as United Nations ambassador.
McMaster had campaigned on his short record as governor, noting the strong economy and personal connections with President Donald Trump. Smith had criticized the state’s high poverty and consistently poor educational results and called for a change in leadership at the Governor’s Office.
He is the oldest person ever elected to the governor’s office in South Carolina, although not the oldest to actually hold the post. Former Gov. James Byrnes was 72 years old when he left office in 1955.