Haley’s suc­ces­sor a fa­mil­iar face and change of pace

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY SEANNA ADCOX

COLUMBIA, S.C. | 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, a for­mer at­tor­ney gen­eral who de­cided not to pros­e­cute then-Gov. Mark San­ford for his spend­ing af­ter his no­to­ri­ous 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 Ms. 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.

Mr. McMaster also was the na­tion’s first statewide of­fice­holder to back Mr. Trump for pres­i­dent, in an en­dorse­ment be­fore the state’s first-in-the-South pres­i­den­tial pri­mary. The move stunned po­lit­i­cal ob­servers, but Mr. McMaster’s sup­port never wa­vered de­spite Democrats’ calls to with­draw it.

He said in an in­ter­view last month he never re­gret­ted the en­dorse­ment.

“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, Mr. McMaster has forged strong re­la­tion­ships statewide.

He’s “a com­mon-sense con­ser­va­tive — very rea­son­able, never abra­sive,” said state House Ju­di­ciary Chair­man Greg Del­leney, a Repub­li­can from Ch­ester. “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 Mr. McMaster’s en­try could fi­nally lead to pas­sage of a com­pre­hen­sive road-fund­ing bill. Ms. Haley’s threats to veto any­thing with a gas tax in­crease stymied ef­forts for years.

Ques­tioned by re­porters af­ter a meet­ing ear­lier this month, Mr. McMaster said, “We will make progress, great progress,” but gave no specifics.

In the 2010 GOP pri­mary, Ms. Haley trounced Mr. McMaster and two other bet­ter-known men partly by run­ning against the “good ol’ boy” net­work. Yet days af­ter tak­ing a 32-per­cent­age­point beat­ing, Mr. McMaster en­dorsed Ms. 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 Ms. 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 Mr. McMaster in the 2014 lieu­tenant gov­er­nor’s race, con­tends Mr. McMaster is a staunch de­fender of the “sta­tus quo.”

“Coura­geous and vi­sion­ary are not ad­jec­tives you use to de­scribe Henry McMaster,” said Mr. Sell­ers, a for­mer state House mem­ber.

Other long­time po­lit­i­cal ad­ver­saries ap­plaud Mr. McMaster’s im­pend­ing move.

“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,” said for­mer state Demo­cratic Party Chair­man Dick Har­pootlian.

Mr. McMaster be­gan his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer in 1973 as an aide to then-U.S. Sen. Strom Thur­mond. He led the state Repub­li­can Party for 10 years, while the GOP took con­trol of the state leg­is­la­ture.

He fre­quently boasts of be­ing Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan’s first ap­point­ment for U.S. 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 mul­ti­state chal­lenge of Pres­i­dent Obama’s health care over­haul that al­lowed states to opt out of its in­tended Med­i­caid ex­pan­sion — as South Carolina has stead­fastly done.

But just a month af­ter say­ing he would not pur­sue crim­i­nal charges against Mr. San­ford in 2009, Mr. McMaster lost his pri­mary bat­tle with Ms. Haley.

Leg­is­la­tors say his decades­long re­la­tion­ship with many of them is an as­set. GOP Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion Chair­man John Cour­son, who met Mr. McMaster while at the Univer­sity of South Carolina in the 1960s, said it helps that Mr. McMaster “un­der­stands the per­son­al­i­ties in the Se­nate.”

“Across the board, among Democrats and Repub­li­cans, ev­ery­body is ex­cited about him com­ing in — with the be­lief that he will have a de­sire to get things done and the abil­ity to do so,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader Todd Ruther­ford, a Demo­crat from Columbia.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster is the pre­sumed in­her­i­tor of the State­house in South Carolina if Gov. Nikki Haley is con­firmed as Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump’s pick as am­bas­sador to the U.N.

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