Gov. Henry McMaster, an early supporter of President Donald Trump, has been forced into a runoff for the Republican nomination.
McMaster was the top vote-getter in Tuesday's primary but failed to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff. Now, he and Greenville businessman John Warren are headed for a second contest June 26.
The vote tested the heft of Trump's endorsement in South Carolina, where McMaster became governor last year following Nikki Haley's departure to serve as U.N. Ambassador. As lieutenant governor, McMaster was the nation's first statewide elected official to back Trump ahead of South Carolina's early presidential primary.
McMaster was unsuccessful in his 2010 gubernatorial bid, losing a four-way primary to Haley.
Surveys on Tuesday showed McMaster leading in the polls for the Republican nomination. McMaster has backing from the NRA, SC Citizens for Life and President Donald Trump, who tweeted support on Saturday, calling him "a special guy."
The governor said he was feeling confident.
"I think we're working hard and we plan to win this primary," McMaster said. "If we go to a runoff, we plan to win the runoff. And if we got to the general election, which we will, we're going to win that, too. We're winning."
Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton, Greenville businessman John Warren, Lieutenant Governor Kevin Bryant and former Lieutenant Governor Yancey McGill were also on the ballot.
In Lexington Tuesday morning, several voters said they like McMaster’s endorsement from Trump and that’s enough to convince him he’s the one for the job.
“Oh, I voted for McMaster just because he’s the closest associated with Trump, you know," McMaster supporter Neil Bonocan said. "They were all good candidates, but I think he has access to Trump that the others just don’t have.”
On the other side of the aisle, people said State Rep. James Smith is their Democrat choice. Smith is one of three candidates vying for the Democratic nomination. The Democratic ballot also includes are Phil Noble and Marguerite Willis.
“I voted for James Smith for governor because I’ve had some interactions with him in the past with environmental issues and some clubs I’ve been involved with, the Sierra Club, Palmetto Paddlers, and he’s always been on the right side of the issues,” Smith supporter David Hutchens said.
The latest poll released Tuesday afternoon by the Trafalgar Group shows McMaster in the lead still with 44 percent of the vote, then John Warren behind him with 22 percent and Catherine Templeton with 20 percent. That would mean a run-off happens in two weeks.
The winner of the runoff will face Democratic State Rep. James Smith in November.
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