Election season used to be kind of fun but in recent years, it’s just become kind of mean.


Now is the time of year that election season is, as the Australians say, “hotting up,” but quite frankly, the temperature is pretty tepid. Candidates have a few days left to file before the June 14 partisan primaries, but the only word to describe what’s going on is “lackluster.”

On the Republican side, Gov. Henry McMaster is running for reelection and mostly has a downhill battle. We didn’t even realize he had what seems to be token  primary opposition until a search of opponents who have filed. (If you’re keeping score, it looks like the conservative McMaster, like many GOP incumbents, is predictably getting challenged from the right as the state’s primary process has evolved into rage politics at the edge, not middle, thanks to rampant redistricting by the legislature.)

McMaster, 74, filed on March 16, saying, “When we work together to advance our shared conservative values, we can achieve great things. South Carolina is in the best financial shape ever, and we are excited to build upon that success by cutting taxes. For South Carolina, the best is yet to come.”

Not so fast, say the two Democrats who have filed to replace McMaster in what may be one of two statewide elections with a pulse by the time the general election rolls around in November.

Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham of Charleston filed this week, saying he wanted to bring the Palmetto State into the future in a statement to the Charleston City Paper:  “Under a Cunningham administration, we will finally tackle the most pressing challenges facing our state that Columbia politicians and Henry McMaster have ignored for decades,” he said. “We will raise teacher pay and improve our schools, protect voting rights, end corruption at the Statehouse, fix our crumbling roads, legalize marijuana and make health care affordable and accessible to all.

“If Henry McMaster couldn’t fix these problems throughout his 40-year career in politics, he won’t fix them with another four. It’s time for new ideas and a new vision and I’m ready to help South Carolina reach its full potential.” 

Mia McLeod, a state senator from Richland County, sent this message after she filed in the Democratic primary: “We have the power to transform South Carolina into a state where generation after generation can thrive,” she said. “A South Carolina where a person’s future is brighter than their present, where young people want to stay and raise a family, and where we are all cared for, educated, and treated with dignity.”

McMaster likely will cruise to the Republican nomination, while Cunningham and McLeod will use up precious financial resources to distinguish themselves in the June Democratic primary, which probably won’t get much voter traction because there aren’t that many contests to attract the attention of Democratic voters.

Republicans have more contested races, the largest of which will see several candidates battle to be the candidate to be state superintendent of education. Incumbent Molly Spearman isn’t running for re-election. Other higher-profile elections that will attract independents and Democrats to vote in the GOP primary include:

U.S. House, District 1: Incumbent Nancy Mace, who is expected to file by March 30, faces former state Rep. Katie Arrington, who lost to Cunningham in 2018, and newcomer Lynz Piper-Loomis. This will be a barnburner as Mace, a former staffer for former President Donald Trump, is running without his endorsement, which Arrington has.

U.S. House, District 4: Incumbent William Timmons faces three GOP challengers.

U.S. House, District 7:  Incumbent Tom Rice, who outraged Trump supporters by voting with Democrats to impeach Trump, faces four GOP challengers.

On the Democratic side, veteran U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (SC-6), the third-ranking member of his party in the U.S. House, faces two primary challengers who are mostly unknown.

Hold onto your hats, but don’t worry: It’s not that windy this election season.

Andy Brack is publisher of Charleston City Paper. Have a comment? Send to: feedback@charlestoncitypaper.com.

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