Trump sup­porter suc­ceeds Ha­ley

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

If South Carolina Gov Nikki Ha­ley is con­firmed as Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s pick for United Na­tions am­bas­sador, her suc­ces­sor will be an en­trenched vet­eran of the state’s GOP who as at­tor­ney gen­eral de­cided not to pros­e­cute then-Gov Mark San­ford for his spend­ing af­ter his dis­ap­pear­ance to ren­dezvous with his mis­tress.

Lt Gov Henry McMaster, a 69-year-old known for his abil­ity to dis­agree af­fa­bly, would get the job he’s long wanted in the gov­er­nor­ship. His leadership offers a sharp con­trast in style if not in sub­stance from Ha­ley, the daugh­ter of In­dian im­mi­grants and the na­tion’s youngest gov­er­nor at 44, who hasn’t hes­i­tated to pub­licly bash leg­is­la­tors who dif­fered with her.

McMaster also was the na­tion’s first statewide of­fice­holder to back Trump for pres­i­dent, in an en­dorse­ment be­fore the state’s first-in-the-South pres­i­den­tial pri­mary. The move stunned po­lit­i­cal ob­servers, but McMaster’s sup­port never wa­vered, de­spite Democrats’ calls to with­draw it. He told AP last month he never re­gret­ted the en­dorse­ment. “No ma’am, the more it went on, the more con­fi­dent I was he was the man for the job,” he said in his char­ac­ter­is­tic, gen­teel drawl. He’s re­vealed lit­tle about what he would do as gov­er­nor, and his of­fice said he wasn’t avail­able for an in­ter­view.

But as a savvy po­lit­i­cal in­sider, McMaster has forged strong re­la­tion­ships statewide. He’s “a com­mon­sense con­ser­va­tive - very rea­son­able, never abra­sive,” said House Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Greg Del­leney. “He’s a re­al­ist, and he’s a gen­tle­man, and I think he’s go­ing to work with the Gen­eral Assem­bly to get things done.” Leg­is­la­tors hope McMaster’s en­try could fi­nally lead to pas­sage of a com­pre­hen­sive road-fund­ing bill. Ha­ley’s threats to veto any­thing with a gas tax in­crease stymied ef­forts for years.

‘Good Ol’ Boy’

Ques­tioned by re­porters af­ter a meet­ing ear­lier this month, McMaster said, “We will make progress, great progress,” but gave no specifics. In the 2010 GOP pri­mary, Ha­ley trounced McMaster and two other bet­ter-known men partly by run­ning against the “good ol’ boy” net­work. Yet days af­ter tak­ing a 32-per­cent­age-point beat­ing, McMaster en­dorsed Ha­ley with an ex­u­ber­ant “I’m all in!” and has been a close ally since. Be­yond cam­paign­ing with her statewide, he ar­ranged a se­ries of pri­vate meet­ings be­tween Ha­ley and skep­ti­cal busi­ness lead­ers a week af­ter she pub­licly chided the state Cham­ber of Com­merce as a fan of bailouts and cor­po­rate wel­fare. Bakari Sell­ers, a Demo­crat who lost to McMaster in the 2014 lieu­tenant gov­er­nor’s race, con­tends McMaster “ex­em­pli­fies the good ol’ boy net­work in South Carolina”. “Henry’s been around a very long time. He’s the sta­tus quo,” said Sell­ers, a for­mer state House mem­ber. “Coura­geous and vi­sion­ary are not ad­jec­tives you use to de­scribe Henry McMaster.”

Other long­time po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries ap­plaud McMaster’s im­pend­ing move. “Henry is some­body who wants to do the right thing and move the state for­ward,” said for­mer state Demo­cratic Party Chair­man Dick Har­pootlian, who’s not one to pull punches. “If a good ol’ boy means some­body who re­mem­bers his friends and has a ge­nial ap­proach to gov­ern­ing, then I would take that as a com­pli­ment. He’s not go­ing to rant and rave and pick fights. He’s not go­ing to den­i­grate peo­ple pub­licly.”

McMaster be­gan his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in 1973 as an aide to then-US Sen Strom Thur­mond. He led the state Repub­li­can Party for 10 years, while the GOP took con­trol of the Leg­is­la­ture. He fre­quently boasts of be­ing Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s first ap­point­ment for US at­tor­ney in 1981 and launched “Op­er­a­tion Jack­pot”, an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into in­ter­na­tional drug smug­gling that re­sulted in more than 100 con­vic­tions. As state at­tor­ney gen­eral, he cre­ated a task force of of­fi­cers pos­ing as chil­dren to catch on­line sex preda­tors and built an at­tor­ney net­work to pros­e­cute crim­i­nal do­mes­tic vi­o­lence. In 2010, he helped lead a multi-state chal­lenge of Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s health care over­haul that al­lowed states to opt out of its in­tended Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion - as South Carolina has stead­fastly done. In 2009, McMaster asked the state Ethics Com­mis­sion to in­ves­ti­gate San­ford af­ter his dis­ap­pear­ance to ren­dezvous with his mis­tress in Ar­gentina brought scru­tiny to his trav­els.

Af­ter San­ford paid $74,000 to re­solve 37 civil charges, McMaster opted not to pur­sue crim­i­nal charges, say­ing San­ford’s use of first-class tick­ets, travel on state air­craft and ques­tion­able cam­paign re­im­burse­ments didn’t rise to a crim­i­nal level - and it was time for the state to move on. A month af­ter that an­nounce­ment, McMaster lost to Ha­ley. Leg­is­la­tors say his decades-long re­la­tion­ship with many of them is an as­set. GOP Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion Chair­man John Cour­son, who met McMaster while at the Univer­sity of South Carolina in the 1960s, said it helps that McMaster “un­der­stands the per­son­al­i­ties in the Se­nate.”

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