What you need to know about Henry McMaster

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Front Page - BY TOM BAR­TON tbar­ton@thes­tate.com

In and around S.C. pol­i­tics for decades, Repub­li­can Gov. Henry McMaster has served as U.S. at­tor­ney, S.C. at­tor­ney gen­eral and chair­man of South Carolina’s Repub­li­can Party.

The 71-year-old for­mer lieu­tenant gover­nor, who be­came gover­nor in 2017 with Nikki Ha­ley’s con­fir­ma­tion as U.S. am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions, wants to po­si­tion the state for an eco­nomic ex­plo­sion. He prom­ises lower taxes, fewer reg­u­la­tions and a leaner, more ef­fi­cient state government.

McMaster is seek­ing his first full term as gover­nor. He faces state Rep. James Smith, DColumbia, in the Nov. 6 election.

Here’s what else you should know about the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent:

He’s been in the pub­lic eye for decades. McMaster

grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of South Carolina School of Law in 1973 and went on to work for the late U.S. Sen­a­tor Strom Thur­mond. He was ap­pointed U.S. At­tor­ney for South Carolina by Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan in 1981. He won the Repub­li­can nomi- na­tion for the U.S. Se­nate in 1986 but lost to in­cum­bent Demo­crat Fritz Hollings. In a de­bate be­tween the two, Hollings fa­mously told McMaster he would take a drug test — as McMaster chal­lenged — if his Repub­li­can op­po­nent would take an IQ test.

McMaster then was de­feated in the 1990 lieu­tenant gover­nor’s race by Demo­crat Nick Theodore. He chaired the South Carolina Repub­li­can Party from 1993 to 2002, when he re­signed to suc­cess­fully run for S.C. At­tor­ney Gen­eral. He was re-elected in 2006 and ran for gover­nor in 2010 but was de­feated by Ha­ley in the Repub­li­can pri­mary. He was elected as lieu­tenant gover­nor of the state in 2014.

He comes from a well­known fam­ily.

McMaster’s fam­ily is widely known in Columbia and has long-stand­ing roots around town. The sec­ond old­est of six broth­ers,

McMaster at­tended A.C. Flora High School for two years be­fore trans­fer­ring to a North Carolina prep school. His fa­ther, John Gregg McMaster, served in the state House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

He led an early war on drugs.

McMaster, as the state’s top fed­eral pros­e­cu­tor, over­saw “Op­er­a­tion Jack­pot,” an $850 mil­lion drug-smug­gling saga that rocked the South Carolina Low­coun­try in the early 1980s. The high-pro­file anti-drug cam­paign re­sulted in more than 100 con­vic­tions. The fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion launched McMaster’s pub­lic ca­reer as a young, am­bi­tious U.S. at­tor­ney.

He’s an avid Trump sup­porter.

McMaster was the coun­try’s first statewide of­fice­holder to en­dorse Don­ald Trump’s suc­cess­ful 2016 pres­i­den­tial bid. He leaned heav­ily on his close re­la­tion­ship to the pres­i­dent to pre­vail in a pri­mary runoff to se­cure the GOP nom­i­na­tion for gover­nor ear­lier this year.

Democrats and oth­ers, though, ar­gue the S.C. gover­nor has lit­tle to show for his close re­la­tion­ship with the pres­i­dent — es­pe­cially on im­por­tant is­sues like off­shore drilling, tar­iffs and nu­clear waste dis­posal.

McMaster in­sists his re­la­tion­ship with Trump has helped the state. He has cited South Carolina get­ting $49 mil­lion from the U.S. Army Corps of Engi­neers to deepen the Charles­ton Har­bor to in­crease cargo ca­pac­ity at the Port of Charles­ton. And McMaster worked with the state’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion to get an ex­emp­tion from Trump’s tar­iffs for Fair­field County TV-maker Ele­ment Elec­tron­ics.

He was one of the first at­tor­neys gen­eral to sue over Obamacare.

As S.C. At­tor­ney Gen­eral, McMaster helped lead a law­suit against the Af­ford­able Care Act, also known as Obamacare, after its pas­sage. McMaster joined his coun­ter­parts in roughly 20 other states in su­ing to strike down the law as un­con­sti­tu­tional.

He over­saw GOP takeover of the Gen­eral Assem­bly.

As state GOP chair­man, McMaster led the party to Repub­li­can ma­jori­ties in South Carolina’s House and Se­nate. Some at the time blamed McMaster for al­low­ing the state party to fall $276,000 in debt. McMaster told The State in 2002 he chose to put the party’s funds into win­ning elec­tions first, and pay­ing bills sec­ond.

He’s been dogged, but not de­feated, by link to in­dicted po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant.

McMaster has been slammed by his op­po­nents for his re­la­tion­ship with his long­time, for­mer po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant, Richard Quinn, who was in­dicted in the State House cor­rup­tion probe. The charges against Quinn later were dropped as part of a plea deal with Quinn’s son.

McMaster has said he had no in­volve­ment in the pay-forin­flu­ence schemes in the Gen­eral Assem­bly al­leged by a state grand jury. He also has backed strength­en­ing the state’s ethics laws.

Two Repub­li­can pros­e­cu­tors who have worked on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion en­dorsed McMaster, vouch­ing for his hon­esty.

He’sama­jor land­lord.

McMaster and his wife own 20 rental prop­er­ties in down­town Columbia, which they largely rent to Univer­sity of South Carolina stu­dents. The gover­nor earned $322,292 in in­come from those rental prop­er­ties in 2016, ac­cord­ing to his tax returns. Rental in­come he re­ported in 2017 was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

McMaster, in Thurs­day’s de­bate, was knocked over the run­down con­di­tion of some of his prop­er­ties.

“Stu­dents act like stu­dents … They break a lot of things, and we fix them as fast as we can,” McMaster said in Thurs­day’s de­bate, ar­gu­ing pho­tos pub­lished by the Charles­ton pa­per showed “things un­der ren­o­va­tion now.”

He’s a mem­ber of For­est Lake Coun­try Club.

The gover­nor has been a mem­ber of the ex­clu­sive for­merly all-white club for more than three decades. He has re­peat­edly re­fused calls to give up his mem­ber­ship.

McMaster de­clined to re­nounce his mem­ber­ship in 2014, when then-Demo­cratic state Rep. Bakari Sell­ers, now a CNN com­men­ta­tor, brought the is­sue up in their race for lieu­tenant gover­nor. S.C. vot­ers seem­ingly didn’t care. McMaster hand­ily de­feated Sell­ers.

He’s a bull­dog lover.

The only per­son more fa­mous than McMaster in the gover­nor’s man­sion has to be his English bull­dog Lit­tle Mac. As a child, McMaster grew up with five bull­dogs. He said his first mem­ory in life is crawl­ing to the porch and rid­ing atop the fam­ily’s bull­dog, play­fully bit­ing it on the back of the neck and get­ting a mouth­ful of hair.

TRACY GLANTZ tglantz@thes­tate.com

The only breed of dog ever owned by Gov. Henry McMaster is the English Bull­dog. His cur­rent dog, Mac, lives in the Gover­nor's Man­sion.

Cour­tesy of Ja­son Ryan

Then U.S. At­tor­ney Henry McMaster shows cash con­fis­cated dur­ing the Op­er­a­tion Jack­pot in­ves­ti­ga­tion at a news con­fer­ence in the early 1980s.

Gov. Henry McMaster’s web page

Henry McMaster is shown with Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan, who ap­pointed him U.S. At­tor­ney in 1981 .

TRACY GLANTZ tglantz@thes­tate.com

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, right, lis­tens as Gov. Henry McMaster speaks at Air­port High on June 25 in West Columbia.

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