Photo by Chelsea Grinstead

Joe Cunningham, the Democratic candidate for governor of South Carolina, held a chicken named Henrietta  at a Thursday press conference in which he challenged incumbent GOP Gov. Henry McMcaster to more than one debate.

“While it may be funny to see a grown man holding a chicken, I feel compelled to call out the cowardice when I see it,” Cunningham said at a North Charleston press conference. “And I see it in Columbia. Politicians must be held accountable. And career politicians like McMaster have done everything they can to stay in power.” 

McMaster and Cunningham of Charleston currently have one debate set for 7 p.m. Oct. 26 on SCETV and South Carolina Public Radio.

Cunningham said McMaster has a poor track record of holding open forums with the public and is insulated from constituent feedback on the impact of current social issues. 

“Have you ever wondered why an overwhelming majority of us agree that our veterans should have access to marijuana to treat their PTSD or that women should have the freedom to control their own bodies, yet career politicians like our governor stand in the minority and say no to both?” Cunningham asked. “It’s because they’re not held accountable.”

McMaster’s campaign said Thursday that Cunningham’s criticism was a “total joke.”

“Joe Cunningham must have forgotten that in this very year he repeatedly refused to debate his trailblazing primary opponent until the Friday before the election,” said Michelle Backus, a spokesman for the McMaster campaign. “The last refuge of a desperate, failing, unserious candidate is hypocrisy and name calling, and Joe is on the run.”

Also Thursday, the S.C. Republican Party called on Cunningham to be more transparent in which industries and organizations he is affiliated with in reference to his income, reported ABC 4 News.

“He’s nearly tripled his income, by the way, since he was elected to Congress, but he won’t tell us who he works for,” said S.C. Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick. “We don’t know who’s paying him. Nobody knows, and he won’t say.”

Cunningham addressed the issue at the press conference, “We’ve released that and we’ve put it out in the press as to the type of work that I’ve been doing. Folks know I’m an attorney by trade, and they know the kind of law I’ve been practicing — construction law, some personal injury [law] and things like that.”

But the GOP said the records raised more questions than they answered. 

Cunningham later responded in a statement: “I currently have no advocacy or consulting clients and I have not been paid by any marijuana or sports betting companies. I realize the governor is used to doing the bidding of the special interests who fund his campaign, but since I’ve never taken a dime from PACs or special interests, I’m beholden to no one but the people of this state.”


Stay cool. Support City Paper.

City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.