In days before election, Cunningham pledges bipartisan cabinet if elected SC governor
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The men hoping to lead South Carolina for the next four years will be crisscrossing the state this weekend, making their final pitches to voters before Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 8.
One of them, former Democratic Congressman Joe Cunningham, is making a new promise: If he wins, he will offer half his cabinet seats to Republicans.
The announcement comes just four days before the election from a Democrat in a state where a Democrat has not won statewide office in 16 years.
Cunningham denies this is a campaign stunt and said he had a bipartisan record in Congress and even hired Republicans to work in his office during his one term on Capitol Hill, so he contends this is his proven track record.
“Our state is very diverse, and I want my administration to be a reflection of that, and I’m not just talking about economically, racially, whatever, but I’m talking about diversity of thought, and I want to be surrounded by people who challenge me,” Cunningham said in an interview.
The governor’s cabinet is made up of more than a dozen appointed leaders of state departments, such as the Department of Social Services and the Department of Corrections.
As opposed to the president’s cabinet at the federal level, the South Carolina governor does not select the heads of other major state agencies, including the secretary of state and attorney general, who is independently elected by voters.
Cunningham’s new pledge comes in addition to previous promises he made to fill half these posts with women and minorities.
The Democrat said better policies will result from surrounding himself with a bipartisan coalition.
“I think this country needs more of it, and I think our state needs more of it. I’m not a big fan of one-party rule, and I think the best ideas can be forged through group thinking and bringing the best of both sides,” Cunningham said.
Gov. Henry McMaster, the Republican incumbent, currently leads a cabinet with 14 men and five women.
Cunningham said that makeup should be more balanced to effectively serve all South Carolinians.
In response to Cunningham’s pledge, McMaster’s campaign spokesman Brandon Charochak said, “Unlike Mr. Cunningham, the governor doesn’t use party affiliation as a litmus test for who serves in his cabinet — he has selected the best person for the job, period, and that’s why South Carolina is booming.”
McMaster carries a big advantage heading into Tuesday as the incumbent and a Republican in a red state, the University of South Carolina Political Science Professor Robert Oldendick noted.
He said for the Cunningham campaign, these closing days are about making a final push to see what sticks with voters and trying to mobilize them Tuesday.
“The whole campaign season has been looking for an issue to get some traction,” Oldendick said. “At one point, the Democrats thought abortion might be that issue, but that’s faded, and so as we go through and Tuesday gets closer, it’s like, ‘Let’s throw some things out there that haven’t been out there before, and hopefully we can capitalize on them.’”
But Oldendick is not sure a promise for bipartisanship can effectively win over a lot of voters in this state.
“Given that South Carolina, like most of the country, is so polarized at this point that bipartisanship isn’t necessarily something the people are clamoring for,” he said. “If you’re voting Democratic, you’re probably going to vote for almost all the Democratic candidates. Bipartisanship used to be a lot nicer word in politics than it is today.”
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