Henry Dargan McMaster (born May 27, 1947) is an American politician and attorney, who is the 117th and current Governor of South Carolina . He assumed office on January 24, 2017. He previously served as the 91st Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina from 2015 to 2017, as well as Attorney General of South Carolina from 2003 to 2011. From 1981 to 1985, McMaster served as United States Attorney , where he was best known for investigating South Carolina marijuana smugglers in Operation Jackpot . McMaster served on the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and chaired the South Carolina Republican Party from 1993 to 2002. [9]

McMaster succeeded to the office of Governor of South Carolina when Nikki Haley resigned as governor to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations .

Background

McMaster was born on May 27, 1947 in Columbia, South Carolina . [10] He is the eldest son of John Gregg and Ida Dargan (Pet) McMaster. He received a bachelor's degree in history from the University of South Carolina in 1969. As an undergraduate, he was a member of Kappa Alpha Order and the South Carolina Student Legislature. In 1973, he graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law where he served on the Editorial Board of the South Carolina Law Review . Later that year, he was admitted to the South Carolina Bar, the Richland County Bar Association. He served in the United States Army Reserves , receiving his honorable discharge in 1975. [10]

Upon graduation from law school, McMaster worked as a Legislative Assistant to U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond in Washington, D.C. until 1974, when he joined the firm of Tompkins and McMaster. He was admitted to practice before the federal Court of Claims in 1974, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in 1975 and in 1978, upon motion of Senator Thurmond , the Supreme Court of the United States . For almost 29 years, McMaster practiced law, both as a federal prosecutor and in private practice, having represented clients in the state and federal courts, trial and appellate. [2]

Early political career

United States Attorney

Upon the recommendation of Senator Thurmond, McMaster was nominated by President Ronald Reagan as United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina in 1981—Reagan's first nomination for U.S. Attorney. McMaster was confirmed by the Senate on May 21, 1981. [11] He headed the South Carolina Law Enforcement Coordinating Committee from 1981 to 1985.

During his tenure, McMaster created the federal drug task force Operation Jackpot to investigate South Carolina marijuana smugglers. [12] Operation Jackpot ultimately arrested more than 100 men and women for crimes related to marijuana and hashish trafficking. McMaster held numerous press conferences during the trial and earned publicity through his many interviews and comments. His actions were criticized as transparently political, with journalist Lee Bandy writing that "no one can recall any other U.S. attorney being so public-relations conscious" and noting that McMaster had produced more press conferences and news releases than all of his predecessors combined. [13]

McMaster completed his four-year term as U.S. Attorney on December 31, 1985.

Election bids, South Carolina Commission on Higher Education

In 1986, after considering races for South Carolina Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, McMaster won a spirited primary for the Republican nomination for the United States Senate . He was defeated by incumbent Ernest Hollings . In 1990, he won another contested primary and was the Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor , losing to incumbent Nick Theodore . In 1991, he was appointed by Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. and confirmed by the South Carolina Senate to serve on the state's Commission on Higher Education. He also served on the Board of Directors of the non-profit South Carolina Policy Council from 1991 through 2003, serving as board chairman from 1992 until 1993.

South Carolina Republican Party Chair

In 1993, McMaster was elected chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party , and was subsequently re-elected by the State Republican Convention in 1996, 1998 and 2000. In this capacity, he also served as a member of the Republican National Committee from 1993 until 2002. Under McMaster's chairmanship, the Republican Party captured the Governorship, several statewide offices and (with party switches) the State House of Representatives in 1994, and finally captured control of the powerful State Senate in 2000. Under McMaster, the South Carolina GOP also ran highly contentious and successful presidential primaries in 1996 (won by Bob Dole) and 2000 (won by George W. Bush).

Attorney General of South Carolina

In 2002 McMaster ran for and was elected Attorney General. He was reelected unopposed in 2006. In 2010 he ran for Governor, but was defeated in the Republican primary, finishing third. He immediately endorsed frontrunner and eventual winner Nikki Haley . [14]

Campaign finance violation

On January 6, 2015, the Ethics Commission of South Carolina accused McMaster of accepting about $70,000 in campaign donations when he unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2010, which exceeds South Carolina's legal limit for donations by $51,850. [4] Documents released by the Ethics Commission state that McMaster accepted these extra funds to help in settling his campaign debt. [4] [5] In September 2015, the Commission refused to dismiss the complaint and McMaster's attorney indicated McMaster was likely to settle. [9] In March 2016, the S.C. Ethics Commission ordered McMaster "to repay $72,700 in excess campaign contributions from his 2010 run for governor and pay a $5,100 fine." [9]

Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina (2015–2017)

McMaster filed to run for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina on March 27, 2014. [9] He received 44% of the vote in a four-way Republican Party primary and was forced into a run-off against Mike Campbell, son of former Governor Carroll A. Campbell, Jr. [9] McMaster defeated Campbell, receiving 63.6% of the vote [9] and went on to face Democratic State Representative Bakari Sellers in the general election. During the campaign, Sellers challenged McMaster to renounce his 30-year membership in Columbia's Forest Lake Country Club, a private country club alleged to exclude black members; in response, McMaster's campaign manager stated that the Club "[had] no policies of racial discrimination," and added that McMaster "would not be a member if it did." [14] [9] [9] On November 4, 2014, McMaster was elected Lieutenant Governor, defeating Sellers with 58.8% of the vote. [9]

McMaster was elected on a separate ticket than Governor Haley, the last time Lieutenant Governors were elected in this manner. Beginning in 2018, Governors and Lieutenant Governors will run on the same ticket. [9]

During the 2016 presidential campaign, McMaster was an avid supporter of Donald Trump . McMaster claimed to be the first elected politician in the United States to support Trump. After Trump received the Republican nomination, McMaster delivered the nominating speech at the Republican National Convention . [9]

Governor of South Carolina (2017–present)

On November 23, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Governor Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations . [23] On January 24, 2017, Haley was confirmed by the Senate. Later that day, Haley resigned as South Carolina governor and McMaster assumed the governorship. Inaugurated at the age of 69 years and 8 months, McMaster is the oldest person ever to assume the office of governor in South Carolina. [24]

Currently, McMaster is serving the remainder of Governor Nikki Haley 's second term, which expires in January 2019. Per the South Carolina constitution, McMaster is eligible to serve almost ten years as governor: two, four-year terms of his own plus the remainder of Haley's term. McMaster declared in September 2016 that he will be running in the 2018 election, although he has made no public statement about the election since his ascension to the office. [25]

Fiscal policies

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McMaster meeting with John F. Kelly , the United States Secretary of Homeland Security , in February 2017.

On February 6, 2017, McMaster's first major action as governor was requesting $5.18 billion from President Donald Trump for South Carolina's infrastructure, although Trump has made no public statement about McMaster's request. Additionally, later in February, McMaster announced, "[the] state government is going to have to go on a diet as far as spending." On May 9, 2017, McMaster vetoed a bill that would raise the state's gas tax by 12 cents—the largest tax increase in state history—although the South Carolina General Assembly overrode his veto the following day. [26] [27]

Regarding the state's financial budget, McMaster stated that the state has "plenty of money in the system to do all the work on the roads if we would just apply it to the roads that need the work...It's not necessary to put yet another tax on the people of South Carolina." [28]

Gun ownership

McMaster has stated he would sign legislation, if passed by the General Assembly, that "would allow anyone who is legally allowed to buy a gun to do so without a state permit and carry it openly or concealed." [29]

Corruption investigation

In 2017, Governor McMaster—along with the University of South Carolina, BlueCross BlueShield, Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin, and a number of prominent SC legislators—was connected to Richard Quinn and Associates, a firm he employed for political consulting purposes. [30] [31] Richard Quinn and Associates was named as part of a larger corruption probe within the South Carolina General Assembly conducted by Special Prosecutor David Pascoe, which first ensnared then-House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, who resigned and pleaded guilty to public corruption charges in 2014. [32] While McMaster has not been implicated in Pascoe's corruption probe, four SC legislators have been indicted as part of Pascoe's corruption probe as of May 2017. [2]

McMaster’s connections to Richard Quinn and Associates caused him challenges in the South Carolina legislature when replacing two members of the South Carolina Ports Authority (SCPA) Board of Directors whose terms had expired. At the time of McMaster's replacement's nominations, the SCPA paid Quinn a consulting fee of $8,100 per month. [2] State lawmakers delayed, for two weeks, the vote on Governor McMaster's two nominees for the SCPA Board of Directors, citing the ongoing corruption probe that has pulled in three Republican legislators. [2] [2] Both nominees were confirmed after the SCPA voted to cease employing Quinn. [2] [2] McMaster has likewise ceased to use Quinn in advance of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. [2]

2018 gubernatorial election

In August 2017, McMaster declared his candidacy for Governor in the 2018 election. On October 16, 2017, President Donald Trump publicly endorsed McMaster, stating, "I'm so happy with the job he's done...he's doing some special job, but he does it with his heart." [2]

McMaster has also stated that he will not keep incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kevin L. Bryant on the ticket. Instead, he has chosen businesswoman Pamela Evette as his running mate. [2]

Personal life

Properties

McMaster and his wife own 12 houses and several rental apartments in the Columbia area of South Carolina. Reportedly, McMaster is renting many homes to students at the University of South Carolina ; others he is renovating and reselling. One home under the McMaster's ownership includes the McCord House , which was constructed in 1849 and was used as a Union headquarters during the Civil War. Since 2012, the McMasters have received almost one hundred citations from the City of Columbia, ranging from violations involving trash roll carts to "care of premises." Between 1997 and 2002, the McMasters paid about $16,000 in ordinance citations. [2] [11]

In 2016, McMaster's tax returns indicated that he received $7.7 million through rent on such houses and apartments between 2006 and 2015; he paid a little over $500,000 for upkeep, maintenance, and cleaning during that time. [11]

Love of dogs

McMaster is a noted dog lover. In 2005, McMaster was named National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year by the Humane Society of the United States, an organization which he has also served as a council member. [11] [46] In March 2017 within months of becoming governor, McMaster's English bulldog, Boots, died at age 6 after a several months battle with lymphatic cancer. [11] In May, McMaster announced South Carolina had a new "first dog" as he and his wife had a new English bulldog, named Mac. [11]

Awards

1996, Order of the Palmetto
2004, Public Servant of the Year, Sierra Club
2005, National Law Enforcement Officer of the Year, Humane Society of the United States [46]

Electoral history

South Carolina Attorney General Republican Primary Election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster 126,164 42.41
Republican Larry Richter 94,573 31.79
Republican Jon Ozmint 76,725 26.06
South Carolina Attorney General Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster 162,014 55.81
Republican Larry Richter 128,271 44.19
South Carolina Attorney General Election, 2002
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster 601,931 55.48
Democratic Steve Benjamin 482,560 44.48
Write-ins Write-ins 498 0.05
South Carolina Attorney General Election, 2006
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster (inc.) 779,453 99.22
Write-ins Write-ins 6,107 0.78
South Carolina Governor Republican Primary Election, 2010
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Nikki Haley 206,326 48.86
Republican Gresham Barrett 91,824 21.75
Republican Henry McMaster 71,494 16.93
Republican Andre Bauer 52,607 12.46
South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Republican Primary Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster 131,546 43.63
Republican Pat McKinney 73,451 24.36
Republican Mike Campbell 72,204 23.95
Republican Ray Moore 24,335 8.07
South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Republican Primary Runoff Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster 85,301 63.58
Republican Mike Campbell 48,863 36.42
South Carolina Lieutenant Governor Election, 2014
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Henry McMaster 726,821 58.75
Democratic Bakari Sellers 508,807 41.13
Write-ins Write-ins 1,514 0.12