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McMaster 1 Year Later: Hollow Leadership and Political Vulnerabilities

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First Year in Office Featured Scandals, Embarrassing Overrides, and a Floundering Campaign

It’s been a rough first year for South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Today, McMaster will deliver his first State of the State address, while facing multiple scandals, policy failures and attacks from both Republican and Democratic challengers.

At this time in 2017, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster assumed his new post seemingly in control of his own destiny and on the way to easily securing the GOP nomination in his 2018 reelection bid. But a string of self-inflicted errors, weak leadership, and multiple scandals have left McMaster limping into his second, and perhaps final, year as governor.

Here’s a not-so-short timeline of his many blunders and missteps: 


  • January 21 – McMaster takes heat for remaining a member of his “all-white” country club.
  • March 15 – McMaster’s name appears in 2004 audit related to ongoing statehouse corruption probe. The infamous Quinn’s, McMaster’s longtime political advisors, allegedly aided his reelection as state GOP Chair using a “financial shell game” to mask the party’s sagging finances.
  • March 24 – McMaster reiterates his support for Richard Quinn, despite reports that  Quinn had been subpoenaed but the State Grand Jury.
  • April 4 – McMaster fails to clear the field in the GOP primary as Catherine Templeton officially announces her candidacy.
  • May 10 – By a vote of 95-18, the South Carolina House of Representatives overrides McMaster’s veto of a gas tax hike. McMaster gets criticized by fellow Republicans for playing politics.
  • May 14 – McMaster parts ways with the Quinn’s after a three decade partnership. He hires a new consultant to run his campaign. 
  • July 22 – FBI announces investigation into Quinn statehouse corruption.
  • July 28 – McMaster’s own Lt. Governor, Kevin Bryant, enters the GOP primary.        
  • July 31 – Santee Cooper, SCANA abandons construction on two nuclear reactors, largely paid for with taxpayer dollars. Earlier in the year, McMaster had called the consumer rate hikes that paid for the project “fair.”
  • August 29 – A news report showed McMaster took $115,000 in campaign donations from contributors tied to SCANA. The donations were made just weeks before the company abandoned the nuclear projects. McMaster refuses to give back the money.
  • October 10 – Fundraising reports show McMaster getting outraised by Catherine Templeton.
  • November 10 – McMaster and his primary opponents fawn over the now-disgraced Steve Bannon at the Citadel Republican Club.
  • December 8 – McMaster tries to fire Santee Cooper’s chairman, Leighton Lord.
  • December 13 – Leighton Lord sues the state to reverse McMaster’s decision, claiming McMaster falsified allegations to justify his dismissal of the utility chairman.


  • January 9 South Carolina House overrides McMaster veto of funding to replace “fire-prone” school busses.
  • January 10 – McMaster is caught flat-footed by Florida offshore drilling exemption. He begs the White House for similar treatment.
  • January 22 – President Trump defies McMaster’s lobbying efforts and imposes tariffs on solar imports and washing machines, which will hurt South Carolina businesses and consumers. 

All that in just one year!

“Henry McMaster has only been governor for a year, but it’s already clear he is not cut out for the job,” said DGA Deputy Press Secretary Alex Japko. “Between the festering nuclear scandal, his transparently political vetoes, and multiple failures to protect South Carolina from federal overreach, McMaster’s record is nothing to celebrate. His poor job performance is going to hurt his reelection chances in November – if he even makes it to the general election.”