Henry Dargan McMaster born May 27, 1947 is an American politician, attorney and member of the Republican Party, who is the 117th and current Governor of South Carolina, in office since January 24, 2017.
Born in Columbia, South Carolina, McMcaster graduated from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor’s in history in 1969 and graduated from the University of South Carolina School of Law in 1973. He then worked for U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond, in private practice and as a federal prosecutor. Appointed United States Attorney for the District of South Carolina by President Ronald Reagan in 1981, he came to attention for investigating South Carolina marijuana smugglers in Operation Jackpot. 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. McMaster resigned as Chairman in 2002 to successfully run for Attorney General of South Carolina. He was re-elected in 2006 and ran for Governor 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. He left that office in 2015 after being elected the 91st Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina. McMaster succeeded to the office of Governor when Haley resigned to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
McMaster is seeking a full four-year term in the 2018 gubernatorial election. After winning a runoff for the Republican nomination, he will face Democratic nominee James E. Smith Jr.
McMaster was born on May 27, 1947 in Columbia, South Carolina. 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.
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.
On November 23, 2016, President-elect Donald Trump announced his intention to nominate Governor Nikki Haley as Ambassador to the United Nations. 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.
Currently, McMaster is serving the remainder of Governor Nikki Haley’s second term, which expires in January 2019. Per the South Carolina constitution, McMaster is eligible to serve almost ten years as governor: two, four-year terms of his own plus the remainder of Haley’s term. Prior to his ascension to the office of governor, McMaster declared in September 2016 that he would be running in the 2018 election. McMaster has since maintained his electoral ambitions, and is running for a full term of office in 2018.
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.”
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%.
On June 12, 2018, McMaster placed first in the gubernatorial Republican primary. McMaster received 155,072 votes.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 chose businesswoman Pamela Evette as his running mate, not incumbent Lieutenant Governor Kevin L. Bryant, who ran against McMaster for the gubernatorial nomination. On June 26, 2018, McMaster defeated businessman John Warren in the Republican primary runoff, receiving approximately 52% of the votes. His Democratic opponent in the general election is James Smith.
McMaster and his wife own several houses and several rental apartments in the Columbia area of South Carolina. One home under the McMaster’s ownership includes the McCord House, which was constructed in 1849 and was used as a Union headquarters during the Civil War. 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.