Since Donald Trump has nominated South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be his Ambassador to the United Nations, Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster stands in line to become the Palmetto State’s 117th governor. The 69-year-old McMcaster has served as Haley’s Lieutenant Governor since 2015 and was previously the South Carolina Attorney General.
Unlike Haley, McMaster was an early supporter of Trump, endorsing him in January 2016. McMaster also spoke at the Republican National Convention, delivering the official nomination speech for Trump.
McMaster has been married to Peggy McMaster since 1978. They have two children, Henry and Mary.
Here’s a look at McMaster’s career and support of Donald Trump.
1. McMaster Was an Early Trump Supporter & Vowed to Help Trump Succeed as President
While Haley declined to support Trump until after the Republican National Convention, McMaster broke from his ally and endorsed Trump back in January 2016. He even appeared at a rally with Trump before the South Carolina primary.
“You know, we’ve got a saying in the South that says it’s not the dog in the fight that’s important, it’s the fight in the dog that’s important,” McMaster said at that rally, notes the Washington Post. “Well this dog’s got plenty of fight — and it’s gonna take some fighting.”
As an early Trump supporter, McMaster had been floated as a potential cabinet pick after the election. He told WIS-TV on November 17 that he will do what he can to help Trump succeed.
“I want to do whatever I can to help Mr. Trump succeed. He’s the perfect man for right now,” McMaster said.
“You just have to take those things as they come,” McMaster said when asked if he was also thinking about running for governor. “The future of our state is wide open. We have enormous opportunities, more than I think any other state in the country. But our country is in trouble. We have great power and great potential but we’ve been going in the wrong direction. I want to do what I can to see our state goes to the top and also that our country gets stronger and stronger.”
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2. McMaster Delivered the Nominating Speech for Trump at the Republican National Convention
On the second day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, McMaster gave a five-minute speech to officially nominate Trump for the Republican nomination.
“The American people have had enough. I’ve had enough. you’ve had enough,” McMaster told the audience. He also told the audience about how Trump is “the only man equipped to win the ferocious battle ahead,” adding that the now-President-elect has “uncommon strength.”
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3. McMaster Was Appointed U.S. Attorney of South Carolina by Ronald Reagan & Created Operation Jackpot to Stop Marijuana Smugglers
McMaster was born in Columbia, South Carolina and graduated with a degree in history from the University of South Carolina in 1969. in 1973, he earned his law degree from the university’s Law School. From 1962 to 1975, he also served in the U.S. Army Reserves JAG Corps.
McMaster worked for Senator Strom Thurmond in Washington DC as a legislative assistant during the early 1970s. When President Ronald Reagan was looking for a nominee for the U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina in 1981, Thurmond recommended McMaster.
During the Reagan years, McMaster gained national attention for creating “Operation Jackpot,” a task force that was meant to stop marijuana trafficking in South Carolina. The operation led to the arrest of over 100 men and women.
In his book Jackpot: High Times, High Seas, and the Sting That Launched the War on Drugs, Jason Ryan writes that McMaster had critics who claimed he was more “public-relations conscious” than any other prosecutor because he held more press conferences and released more statements than actual arrests. The operation was also criticized for not arresting smugglers of cocaine, heroin and other hard drugs.
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4. McMaster Has Been Running for Political Office Since 1986 & Ran the South Carolina GOP From 1993-2002
After McMaster’s term as U.S. Attorney of South Carolina ended, McMaster turned his attention to politics. In 1986, he ran for U.S. Senate and won the Republican nomination, but could not beat Senator Ernest Hollings. Four years later, he won the Republican nomination to be Lieutenant Governor, but lost. In 1991, he was appointed to South Carolina’s Commission on Higher Education.
In 1993, McMaster became the South Carolina Republican Party chairman, a position he held until 2002. After that, he served as Attorney General of South Carolina until 2011.
“I have a record of accomplishment for the people of South Carolina, having served as President Reagan’s first United States Attorney and as South Carolina Attorney General, both important offices with major responsibilities and authority,” McMaster told the Island Packet in 2014 when he was running for Lieutenant Governor again. “I have the experience, maturity and judgment necessary to serve as an effective lieutenant governor and to step in to lead our state as governor, should that be required.”
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5. McMaster Had to Pay a $73,000 Fine for Excessive Campaign Contributions During the 2010 Governor’s Race
In 2010, McMaster ran for Governor and lost to Haley. Over four years after that election, the South Carolina Ethics Commission filed documents accusing him of campaign finance violations, The Post and Courier reported in January 2015.
Over a year later, The State reported that McMaster was ordered to pay a $5,100 fine, as well as repay $72,000 in excess campaign contributions.
McMaster said that he “inadvertently” broke campaign contribution laws and the commission agreed that his excessive contributions were “unintentional.” They also cleared him of doing anything wrong with the extra money.
“This suits me just fine. We want to comply with the law and make sure everything is done above board,” McMaster told The State. “That’s what I have always tried to do. This order confirms is that what we’re trying to do, but that we were wrong in our understanding of the law. So we’ll fix that now.”
In the 2010 election, McMaster didn’t make it past the Republican primary and the limit on campaign contributions are $3,500 for that election.