South Carolina gives GOP a ruby-red bright spot in midterms
COLUMBIA, S.C.(AP) - The crowd at South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster’s election night party chanted along with the Republican incumbent as he closed his victory speech with a Tim McGraw lyric: “I like it, I love it, I want some more of it.”
It was a fitting tune for the South Carolina Republican Party, which got more than just “some” of it in a cycle when its GOP counterparts across the country failed to generate the wins typically seen during a midterm election under an opposing party’s president. McMaster won reelection by nearly 18 points, double the margin in his last go-around and the largest victory in a South Carolina gubernatorial race since 1990.
But the substantial success came down ballot. Republicans netted seven more state House seats-- including five districts represented by African American Democrats in a surprising result, even after redistricting — to gain a supermajority in the lower chamber for the first time since at least Reconstruction.
Election night was “better here in South Carolina, certainly, than other places around the country,” Drew McKissick, the state GOP chairman, told reporters on Wednesday. “In South Carolina, the ‘Red Wave’ came and swept in along the coast and went all the way to the upstate, proving, yet again, what we already know, that South Carolina is a solid Republican state.”
Tuesday’s results cemented the state GOP’s gains over the last decade in rural areas, according to Matt Moore, who served as South Carolina Republican Party chair from 2013 to 2017. House districts covering rural counties like Jasper and Hampton, Greenwood and McCormick, Sumter and Clarendon, and parts of Charleston and Colleton all flipped to Republicans. Meanwhile, Democrats picked up one seat in suburban Richland County.
Republicans have been growing their legislative majority for a generation now. When Moore was party chair, he said a total of 80 House Republicans felt out of reach. That there could be as many as 88 House Republicans next term is “stunning” to him.
South Carolina is one of six states that allows voters to choose all of their party’s candidates straight down the ticket with a single ballot selection. The system had long benefited Democrats until 2016, when McKissick said South Carolina Republicans outpaced the opposition in straight-ticket voting for the first time. This year, 62% of the roughly 1 million straight-ticket ballots cast in South Carolina were Republican, according to McKissick.
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