Henry McMaster Catherine Templeton Yancey McGill

The three Republicans who have announced bids for governor in 2018: Henry McMaster (left to right), Catherine Templeton and Yancey McGill.

COLUMBIA — It's time for South Carolina voters to get rid of that political hangover from the chaotic 2016 presidential race. 

Primary elections for governor are just a year away on Monday, and campaigning already has begun.

The Republicans, who dominate the state Capitol, have three announced hopefuls and could add more. The Democrats, trying to catch up, are still searching for a confirmed 2018 candidate. 

With the races revving up, here’s a quick primer on who’s in the hunt for the Palmetto State’s top job and who could join them.

Republicans in

Henry McMaster: Seven years ago he was written off after finishing third in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Now he’s in the governor’s office through two good political bets on Nikki Haley and Donald Trump. He has the experience (former state attorney general) and connections (former state GOP Party chief) to raise cash, and the daily platform (see all the economic development events he attends) to sell himself for a full term in the mansion. Plus, he’s hired Haley’s former campaign chief. 

Catherine Templeton: The former health and labor state agency head is promoting herself as the outsider challenging an establishment candidate who started running for office three decades ago. Sound familiar? No surprise that Templeton is touting her ties to Haley in social media posts, and her campaign messaging (“Join the Movement”) is similar to the former governor’s 2010 win. Her fundraising started strong, and the ongoing Statehouse corruption probe could boost anti-incumbent fervor.  

Yancey McGill: The former lieutenant governor switched parties to run for governor. That, combined with being fairly quiet on the trail and in fundraising so far (he still has no official campaign website), makes the longtime Kingstree senator the field’s long shot. 

Republicans considering

Kevin Bryant: The lieutenant governor would be the race’s voice on social issues. The former Anderson senator’s call to make sure no tax money goes to S.C. abortion providers was usurped by McMaster, who made a similar pitch just before Bryant.

Tom Davis: The Beaufort senator and former chief of staff for Gov. Mark Sanford would push his anti-tax, limited government message. He has been the General Assembly’s most vocal critic of raising the state gas tax.

Joe Taylor: Columbia-area real estate developer and former state commerce secretary could self-finance a bid promoting his economic development and business skills and government know-how. 

Democrats in

None 

Democrats considering

Bakari Sellers: The former state representative from Denmark (S.C.) is building a national audience as a CNN political analyst. But he has raised questions about whether state party leaders can fund a strong campaign. He lost to McMaster in the 2014 lieutenant governor’s race. 

James Smith: The Columbia state representative known for his military tour in Afghanistan and as a strong party voice in the Legislature was considered the presumed Democratic candidate. But he might eye a Senate bid instead following the recent indictment of Republican Sen. John Courson. 

Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain is Columbia Bureau Chief for The Post and Courier. He was editor of Free Times and was a reporter and editor at The State, The Charlotte Observer and The (Myrtle Beach) Sun News.