Courtesy of Tribune News Service

SC governors race heats up

Although the election isn't until November 2018, the stage is largely set for South Carolina's governor race. Four Republicans are vying to represent their party while Democrats are waiting to see if Charleston businessman Phil Noble can challenge state Rep. James Smith. 

On the Republican side, incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster is one of four candidates seeking the party's seal of approval.

McMaster, who took office in January after former Gov. Nikki Haley was appointed U.N. ambassador, is seeking his first full term in the state's highest executive office. The Columbia attorney was Haley's lieutenant governor, and before that he served as South Carolina's attorney general. He also chaired the South Carolina Republican Party in the 1990s. He sought the Republican nomination for governor in 2010 but lost to Haley.

He is expected to get a major boost when President Donald Trump makes a campaign stop in Greenville to endorse him. McMaster was one of Trump's first supporters in the Republican establishment.

But McMaster is not the only option for South Carolina Republicans. Former state agency head Catherine Templeton beat him in fundraising in the most recent quarter, according to The Post and Courier. However, McMaster still holds an edge in overall fundraising. 

He also faces a challenge from his own lieutenant governor, Kevin Bryant, and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats have largely been waiting to see what their choices will be. Both candidates waited until October to announce their candidacies.

Rep. Smith was the first Democrat to throw his hat in the ring. He carries the endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden, a powerful national Democrat with deep ties to the Palmetto State. His campaign quickly shifted into high gear with various campaign appearances at county party events already under his belt. South Carolina's most recent Democratic governor, Jim Hodges, has also endorsed the Richland County Democrat.

Charleston technology mogul Phil Noble is Smith's only official challenger. Setting aside a bid for lieutenant governor in the 1990s, Noble is positioning himself as the outsider in the field.

Regardless of who wins their parties' nominations, the historical record is in favor of Republicans. Democrats haven't occupied the governor's mansion in 14 years.

No matter how the election plays out, the 2018 race is already historic. This is the first time in state history that the governor and lieutenant governor will be elected on one ticket rather than separately.

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