McMaster prevails in South Carolina governor's race

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COLUMBIA - Loyal Trump supporter South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster secured his first full term in office Tuesday, achieving the office he's held for two years but long sought to win on his own merit.

This is the first election in which South Carolina has elected its governor and lieutenant governor on a ticket. With the win, McMaster's running mate, businesswoman Pamela Evette, becomes the second woman elected to the state's second-highest office and the first Republican woman to do so.

In defeating Democratic state Rep. James Smith in Tuesday's general election, Republican McMaster's victory also was a win for President Donald Trump, who had endorsed him and made several visits to South Carolina on the governor's behalf.

McMaster's ties to Trump are older than either man's administration. In early 2016, then-Lt. Gov. McMaster threw his support behind Trump's presidential bid, becoming the first statewide-elected official in the country to do so.

The move surprised many allies and friends of the longtime member of South Carolina's establishment GOP circles. But McMaster's wager paid dividends a year later, when Trump picked Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador, allowing McMaster to ascend to the governor's office.

McMaster, 71, served two terms as South Carolina's attorney general and previously led the state's Republican Party. He lost a previous gubernatorial bid, coming in third in a four-way GOP primary in 2010 to Haley.

Although his position allowed him the mantle of running as an incumbent, McMaster drew four Republican challengers for this year's primary election. Forced into a runoff, McMaster ultimately defeated businessman John Warren.

Smith, 51, has represented the Columbia area in the state Legislature for more than 20 years. The attorney was a JAG officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and South Carolina Army National Guard but resigned his commission after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to enlist in the infantry, ultimately serving in Afghanistan.

Sumter County voters chose Smith 57 percent to McMaster's 42 percent. Lee County voters also chose Smith, by 65 percent to McMaster's 34 percent. Clarendon County had reported no precinct results as of press time.