Henry McMaster

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Henry McMaster
SC Governor Henry McMaster 2019 (cropped).jpg
117th Governor of South Carolina
Assumed office
January 24, 2017
Lieutenant Kevin L. Bryant
Pamela Evette
Preceded by Nikki Haley
91st Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
In office
January 14, 2015 – January 24, 2017
GovernorNikki Haley
Preceded by Yancey McGill
Succeeded byKevin L. Bryant
50th Attorney General of South Carolina
In office
January 15, 2003 – January 12, 2011
Governor Mark Sanford
Preceded by Charlie Condon
Succeeded by Alan Wilson
Chair of the
South Carolina Republican Party
In office
May 1993 – May 2002
Preceded by Barry Wynn
Succeeded by Katon Dawson
United States Attorney for the
District of South Carolina
In office
June 5, 1981 [1] – July 1, 1985 [2]
President Ronald Reagan
Preceded byThomas Simpson [1]
Succeeded byVinton Lide [3]
Personal details
Henry Dargan McMaster

(1947-05-27) May 27, 1947 (age 73)
Columbia, South Carolina, U.S.
Political party Republican
Peggy Anderson ( m. 1978)
Residence Governor's Mansion
Education University of South Carolina ( BA, JD)
Website Government website
Military service
Allegiance  United States
Branch/service  United States Army
Years of service1969–1975
Unit United States Army Reserve

Henry Dargan McMaster (born May 27, 1947) is an American politician, attorney and member of the Republican Party, who is the 117th Governor of South Carolina, in office since January 24, 2017.

Born in Columbia, South Carolina, McMaster graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor's in history in 1969, and from the University of South Carolina School of Law with a Juris Doctor in 1973. President Ronald Reagan appointed McMaster in 1981 as the United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina, a position for which he had national attention after investigating South Carolina marijuana smugglers in Operation Jackpot. At the same time, McMaster also worked for U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond as a lawyer in the private sector. McMaster was the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in 1986, losing to incumbent Democrat Fritz Hollings. He was then defeated for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina by Democrat Nick Theodore in 1990.

In 1991, McMaster was appointed to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education and joined the Board of Directors of the non-profit South Carolina Policy Council. He chaired the South Carolina Republican Party from 1993 to 2002. [4] McMaster resigned as Chairman in 2002 to successfully run for Attorney General of South Carolina. He was re-elected in 2006. McMaster did not seek a third term as attorney general to and ran for Governor of South Carolina in 2010, but was defeated by Nikki Haley in the Republican primary. In 2011, McMaster was appointed to the South Carolina Ports Authority by Governor Haley, a position from which he resigned after successfully being elected the 91st lieutenant governor of South Carolina in 2014. McMaster became the 117th Governor of South Carolina when Haley resigned to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.

McMaster won a full four-year term in the 2018 gubernatorial election after winning a runoff for the Republican nomination and defeating Democratic nominee James Smith in the general election.

Early life

McMaster was born on May 27, 1947, in Columbia, South Carolina. [5] 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 Richland County Bar Association of the South Carolina Bar. He served in the United States Army Reserves, receiving his honorable discharge in 1975. [5]

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 from 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. [6]

Early political career

McMaster's law firm on Pendleton St. in Columbia, SC

United States Attorney

Upon the recommendation of 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. [7] 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. [8] 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. [9]

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

Election bids; state appointments

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 beat Henry Jordan by 27,696 votes (53.41%) to 24,164 (46.60%). In the general election, McMaster was defeated in a landslide by four-term Democratic incumbent Ernest Hollings, losing by 463,354 votes (63.10%) to 261,394 (35.60%).

In 1990, McMaster ran for Lieutenant Governor. He defeated Sherry Shealy Martschink in the Republican primary by 49,463 votes (51.46%) to 46,660 (48.54%), but was again defeated by the Democratic incumbent. He received 309,038 votes (41.19%) to Nick Theodore's 440,844 (58.75%).

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.[ citation needed]

South Carolina Republican Party Chair

On May 8, 1993, McMaster was elected Chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. [10] He 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).[ citation needed] On March 28, 2002, McMaster announced his resignation as party chairman so that he run for Attorney General in 2002. [11]

Attorney General of South Carolina


Henry McMaster's official portrait, 2005

In 2002 McMaster ran for Attorney General. He placed first in the Republican primary with 126,164 votes (42.41%), ahead of State Senator and former judge Larry Richter and attorney Jon E. Ozmint. Forced into a runoff with Richter, McMaster defeated him by 162,014 votes (55.81%) to 128,271 (44.19%). In the general election, he defeated Democratic attorney and former Director of the South Carolina Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services Stephen K. Benjamin by 601,931 votes (55.48%) to 482,560 (44.48%). McMaster ran for re-election in 2006 and was unopposed in both the Republican primary and the general election.

Run for Governor; Ports Authority

In 2010 McMaster ran for Governor, but was defeated in the crowded Republican primary. He finished third with 71,187 votes (16.94%), ahead of Lieutenant Governor André Bauer's 52,324 votes (12.45%) but behind U.S. Representative Gresham Barrett's 91,461 votes (21.76%) and State Representative Nikki Haley's 205,360 votes (48.86%). McMaster immediately endorsed Haley, who had been the frontrunner throughout the race and ultimately defeated Barrett in the runoff in a landslide. [12]

In 2011, Haley appointed McMaster to the South Carolina Ports Authority, succeeding Harry Butler Jr. [13] McMaster left the Ports Authority in 2015 [14] and was replaced by Kurt D. Grindstaff. [15]

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. [16] Documents released by the Ethics Commission state that McMaster accepted these extra funds to help in settling his campaign debt. [16] [17] In September 2015, the Commission refused to dismiss the complaint and McMaster's attorney indicated McMaster was likely to settle. [18] 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." [19]

Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina

McMaster filed to run for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina on March 27, 2014. [20] 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. [21] McMaster defeated Campbell, receiving 63.6% of the vote [22] 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." [12] [23] [24] On November 4, 2014, McMaster was elected Lieutenant Governor, defeating Sellers with 58.8% of the vote. [25]

McMaster was elected on a separate ticket than Governor Haley, the last time Lieutenant Governors were elected in this manner. As of 2018, Governors and Lieutenant Governors run on the same ticket. [26]

During the 2016 presidential campaign, McMaster was an early and 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. [27]

Governor of South Carolina

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

On November 23, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Governor Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations. [28] 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. [29]

McMaster served the remainder of Governor Nikki Haley's second term, which expired in January 2019. Per the South Carolina constitution, McMaster is eligible to serve as governor until January 2027, provided he wins reelection in 2022. Prior to his ascension to the office of governor, McMaster declared in September 2016 that he would be running in the 2018 election. [30] McMaster won the 2018 election to serve his first four-year term. McMaster is eligible for reelection in the 2022 gubernatorial race.

Following McMaster's first year in office as governor, The State ranked his performance. The publication gave McMaster praise for the addition of 17,000 new jobs for the state, his accessibility when it comes to meeting with state legislators, and his handling of the possible threat posed by Hurricane Irma in 2017. However, it criticized McMaster for the "lack of leadership" demonstrated during his first year as governor; citing his veto of a gas-tax increase which would've paid for road repairs and replacements for aging school buses as an example, which was slammed by members of both parties including McMaster's gubernatorial primary rival, Catherine Templeton. Overall, the publication summed up responses to McMaster's first year as "mixed." [31]

In early 2018, McMaster's approval rating was estimated to be at 47%, while both his disapproval rating and those not sure of him were both determined to be 25%. [32]

Fiscal policies

McMaster speaking 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. [33] [34]

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." [35]

McMaster, a strong ally of Donald Trump, greets the president as he arrives in South Carolina

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." [36] When students did a walkout to protest gun violence and to call for stricter gun control, a month after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, McMaster described the student walkout as "shameful" and said that it was a "tricky move" orchestrated by "left wing groups" which were using the students as "tools" to further their left wing agenda. [37] Student activist David Hogg, who survived the Parkland shooting, criticized McMaster, saying in a tweet that "future voters will not reelect you and outlive you too." [37]

Illegal immigration

In 2018, McMaster offered to send troops from the South Carolina National Guard to assist the state of Texas in combating illegal immigration and drug trafficking. This came after President Donald Trump called for the deployment of thousands of soldiers along the Mexico–United States border, in which border-states such as Arizona and New Mexico also participated. [38]

Richard Quinn Corruption Investigation

In 2017, 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. [39] [40] 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. [41] 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. [42]

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. [43] 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. [44] [45] Both nominees were confirmed after the SCPA voted to cease employing Quinn. [46] [47] McMaster has likewise ceased to use Quinn in advance of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign. [48]

2018 gubernatorial election

On June 12, 2018, McMaster placed first in the gubernatorial Republican primary. McMaster received 155,072 votes. [49] However, since he received 42.3% of the vote, less than a majority, he faced John Warren in a run-off primary. On June 26, 2018, McMaster defeated Warren, receiving approximately 52% of the votes. [50]

McMaster chose businesswoman Pamela Evette as his running mate, not incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kevin L. Bryant, who ran against McMaster for the gubernatorial nomination. [51]

President Donald Trump, a strong ally of McMaster, endorsed McMaster. His Democratic opponent in the general election was James Smith. McMaster won with 54% of the vote. [52]

COVID-19 pandemic

McMaster, like most governors during the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in 2020, declared a state of emergency and closed schools and nonessential businesses within the state. Additionally, McMaster issued a home or work order, which is essentially a stay-at-home order by a different name. On April 20, 2020, McMaster drew criticism for reopening beaches and retail stores five days after South Carolina experienced its highest number of new positive COVID-19 tests, [53] but McMaster did implement additional social distancing requirements in his executive order. [54] McMaster noted that the economy was stalled because of Coronavirus and that he anticipated having the economy "humming" by June 2020. [55] By early June, McMaster reopened the majority of the state, though schools remained closed and businesses were required to follow social distancing procedures. [56] Whereas many schools and universities across the United States canceled graduation ceremonies, [57] McMaster urged South Carolina schools to hold ceremonies in a manner that abided by social distancing requirements. [58] McMaster delivered the commencement address at West Florence High School's graduation ceremony and sang Mull of Kintyre while playing his guitar. [59]

On June 10, Dr. Linda Bell with SC DHEC stated that COVD-19 was worse in June than it was when the state was closed in March and April. On average, the number of cases in early June was five to six times higher than in March and April. McMaster added that "it is up to the people to determine what kind of precautions need to be followed," indicating that he will not place any more restrictions on businesses and public facilities. [60] [61]

By late June and early July, confirmed cases in South Carolina had risen by as much as 2,000% compared to March and April when the state was shutdown. [62] Despite pleas from lawmakers and other state officials, McMaster declined to enact a state-wide requirement to wear masks, citing that the order would be "unenforceable." [63] Consequentially, dozens of municipalities enacted their own face mask requirement ordinances, including Columbia, Forest Acres, Greenville, Charleston, Lexington, and most large cities and towns. [64] State epidemiologist Linda Bell criticized the governor's decision and added that a statewide mask ban would be more effective. McMaster, defending his decision, stated that a statewide mask rule would give a “false sense of security to South Carolinians." [63] Attorney General Alan Wilson noted that ordinances and laws requiring face masks are not illegal. [64] On July 10, as the state's COVID-19 cases exceeded 50,000 and nearly 900 deaths, [65] McMaster issued an executive order that prohibits businesses from selling alcohol after 11:00 p.m. in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus among younger people. [66]

2020 Protests and Riots

In response to the killing of George Floyd, protests flared across the United States. In South Carolina, protests occurred in Columbia, Greenville, and Charleston. While protests in Greenville were largely peaceful, some instances of violence emerged in Columbia and Charleston. In Columbia, police cars were torched, shots were fired at police, and businesses were vandalized. In Charleston, protesters stopped traffic on Interstate-26 and the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and vandalized, looted businesses. [67] McMaster, like President Trump, claimed that state and local governments were being too lenient on rioters and looters, and was critical of Charleston's initial response. McMaster said to Trump, "We’ve got to take people out, give them justice, make it more than just the cost of doing business to come into one town, get arrested, pay bond." [68] McMaster mobilized the South Carolina National Guard to be dispatched, if necessary, to halts riots and looting. Per President Trump's request, McMaster sent members of the SC National Guard to Washington, D.C. to aid in larger-scale protests. [69]

Veto Record

McMaster has had many clashes with the South Carolina General Assembly since he took office. Since January 2017, McMaster has vetoed 19 bills, and the state legislature has overridden all or part of 18 of McMaster's vetoes. As of April 2020, McMaster has had only one (or 5%) or his vetoes sustained. [70]

McMaster's Veto Record
Legislative Veto Action
Total % of Total
1 5%
15 79%
Partial/Certain Items Sustained
3 16%
Total Vetoes
19 -

2022 gubernatorial election

Though not formally declared, McMaster has demonstrated an interest in seeking reelection in the 2022 gubernatorial election.

Personal life


McMaster and his wife own several houses and several rental apartments in the Columbia area of South Carolina. One home under the McMasters' ownership is the McCord House, which was constructed in 1849 and was used as a Union headquarters during the Civil War. [71] [72] 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. Additionally, McMaster reportedly has paid over $16,000 in fines for ordinance violations. [73]


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 [74]

Electoral history

Main article: Electoral history of Henry McMaster

Henry McMaster had an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate in 1986, for lieutenant governor in 1990, and for governor in 2010. He was successfully elected attorney general in 2002 and 2006, lieutenant governor in 2014, and governor in 2018.


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External links

Party political offices
Preceded by
Marshall Mays
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from South Carolina
( Class 3)

Succeeded by
Thomas F. Hartnett
Preceded by
Thomas F. Hartnett
Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Bob Peeler
Preceded by
Barry Wynn
Chair of the South Carolina Republican Party
Succeeded by
Katon Dawson
Preceded by
Charlie Condon
Republican nominee for Attorney General of South Carolina
2002, 2006
Succeeded by
Alan Wilson
Preceded by
Ken Ard
Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Pamela Evette
Preceded by
Nikki Haley
Republican nominee for Governor of South Carolina
Most recent
Legal offices
Preceded by
Thomas Simpson
United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Vinton D Lide
Preceded by
Charlie Condon
Attorney General of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Alan Wilson
Political offices
Preceded by
Yancey McGill
Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina
Succeeded by
Kevin L. Bryant
Preceded by
Nikki Haley
Governor of South Carolina
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Mike Pence
as Vice President
Order of Precedence of the United States
Within South Carolina
Succeeded by
Mayor of city
in which event is held
Succeeded by
Otherwise Nancy Pelosi
as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Larry Hogan
as Governor of Maryland
Order of Precedence of the United States
Outside South Carolina
Succeeded by
Chris Sununu
as Governor of New Hampshire