SC GOP gubernatorial candidates face-off in debate ahead of runo - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

SC GOP gubernatorial candidates face-off in debate ahead of runoff

(Source: WISTV) (Source: WISTV)

In a heated 60 minute debate at the Newberry Opera House between Gov. Henry McMaster and John Warren, the two candidates traded jabs battling for votes with the race hanging in the balance.

Throughout the night, McMaster positioned himself as an experienced statesman while Warren positioned himself as the outsider promising change. Both men tried to appeal to President Donald Trump's conservative base.

Warren and Henry McMaster began by painting two pictures of the situation in South Carolina. The Governor said the state is on track.

"We've got more people working in South Carolina than ever before," McMaster said. "Our unemployment rate is the lowest it's been since 2000."

But Warren, who surged to the runoff in the final weeks of the primary, begged to differ.

"We have lost $4 billion with Santee Cooper we are 50th in education. We are overtaxed and the ones bearing the burden of that are the small business owners and the hard-working South Carolinians across the state."

The wide-ranging debate covered the VC Summer Nuclear debacle, with each candidate casting blame about who's at fault, and what they have done or will do to refund ratepayers.  

Warren described how he would reform state government, vowing to unseat longtime politician Senate Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman calling him the "biggest problem our state has seen in 30 years" and blasting what he described as a culture of corruption in the State House. McMaster said it's important for the Governor to have a good working relationship with the legislature.

But as expected, the real dynamics centered on President Trump who will arrive in South Carolina Monday to campaign for Governor McMaster. With the President's 90% approval rating among Republicans in our state, each candidate sought to align themselves with Trump's voters.

In a heated exchange, Warren appeared to make the argument that as a businessman, he has more in common with President Trump than Governor McMaster does as an incumbent Governor.

McMaster countered,  "I know Donald Trump. He's a friend of mine. You're a good man, but you're not Donald Trump, and you were nowhere to be found during the Trump campaign."

Warren supported Ted Cruz in the primaries before supporting Trump in the General Election, while McMaster supported Lindsey Graham briefly before throwing all of his support behind Trump just as the primaries began. President Trump endorsed McMaster in the Governors race, earlier this year.

Each supports President Trump's executive order to keep migrant families together in detention who illegally cross the US / Mexico border.

Warren said, "We have to protect the border. I support building the wall. I said yesterday President Trump is going to find a solution to that complex problem, and today he did. I applaud him for that."

Backstage, the candidates gave a preview of what to expect in the contentious final days of the campaign. McMaster is grateful for a Presidential visit, hoping it will put him over the top to head off Warren's momentum.

"The president always says he always loves the people of South Carolina," McMaster said. "He knows we played an integral role in winning in the nomination for president, and I know he's gonna be very happy to be here."

Warren acknowledged President Trump's popularity, saying the President is "very popular here in South Carolina" but added "If people drew the connection that Henry McMaster is Donald Trump he wouldn't have had 42% in last weeks election. I'm very confident the Donald Trump supporters will be John Warren supporters."

Stay with WIS News 10 for the latest in the race for Governor.

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