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Democratic state Rep. James Smith and Republican Gov. Henry McMaster meet in first South Carolina governor debate on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 at Francis Marion University Performing Arts Center in Florence. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

COLUMBIA — Aided by big donors and a late surge, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster outraised his Democratic rival, state Rep. James Smith, to have more money in the bank for the election's final two weeks.  

With the latest filing, the governor's race has become the most expensive in state history. Nearly $20.5 million has been raised in the 2018 campaign, surpassing the $17.9 million election in 2010.  

Smith actually doubled McMaster's fundraising from July through September by collecting $1.2 million, according to state campaign disclosures filed late Tuesday.

The governor, coming off a bitter primary fight forced the incumbent into a runoff, raised slightly more than $600,000 over those three months that included Hurricane Florence when the candidates agreed to temporarily halt campaigning. 

But McMaster showed why he is considered the favorite in the race, catching up to Smith in October by raising $1.1 million. Smith has collected a little more than $200,000 this month.  

Some of the governor's fundraisers that were postponed during the storm were rescheduled for October. The storm also blunted any momentum from building in the race until recently.

The October push gave McMaster a $1.7 million to $1.45 million edge over Smith during the latest reporting period.

McMaster, hoping to win his first full term in the governor's office after his promotion from lieutenant governor last year, had $611,693 on hand, nearly 70 percent more than Smith ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

In addition to having cash for his own ads, McMaster is getting a boost from the Republican Governors Association which has bought thousands in television air time statewide for the former state attorney general. He also received a $50,000 contribution from the S.C. Republican Party, the maximum allowed under state law.

McMaster's latest contributors included former Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, Lake City financier Darla Moore, and Walmart and Koch Industries, whose executives are major players in Republican politics. 

Smith received contributions from California billionaire Tom Steyer, who is considering a Democratic 2020 bid for president, and Hollywood studio executive Bruce Berman. 

Since the pair of Columbia attorneys started their campaigns last year, McMaster has raised $7.3 million to Smith's $2.9 million.

The governor is getting more help from businesses, whose contributions alone dwarf Smith's total campaign haul. Businesses account for 44 percent of McMaster's donations compared with Smith's 13 percent.

Smith has more than doubled McMaster in the number of contributions, but the governor is raking in bigger donors. McMaster is getting an average of $1,149 per contribution versus Smith's $182.

The governor is getting more maximum contributions of $3,500. He received 286 maximum contributions in the last 3½ months, nearly four times more than Smith. Almost two-thirds of McMaster's maximum contributions came in October. 

McMaster also is drawing more interest from out of state where he gets $1 out of every $4 that he raises. South Carolina accounts for 94 percent of Smith's contributions.

Here are some highlights from the governor's campaign contribution data: 

Top addresses listed for 2018 contributors

Note: South Carolina law allows separate corporations and subsidiaries to donate to candidates and allows maximum contribution of $3,500 each for the primary, runoff and general election. Amounts are totals over the entire campaign. 


84 Villa Road, Greenville: $151,484 

The Capital Corp., an investment banking firm run by Dan Adams, a board member of the payday lending industry's trade organization and chairman of former U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint's political advocacy group

8910 Two Notch Road, Columbia: $98,000

Stern Development, commercial real estate firm run by State Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern, who chaired Donald Trump's Southeastern Business Coalition during the 2016 presidential campaign

7700 Forsyth Blvd, St. Louis: $56,000

Centene Corp., a large publicly traded health insurer that runs Absolute Total Care in South Carolina and spent $45,000 last year to lobby S.C. lawmakers

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10166 Rush St., El Monte, California: $52,500

Imaad Zuberi, a venture capitalist who was one of 30 guests during a private meeting with Trump when the president visited Greenville for a McMaster fundraiser last year. He has been tied to a federal probe for failing to register with the Justice Department that his company was paid by a foreign government — Sri Lanka, according to a report in Foreign Policy magazine. He donated $1 million to Trump’s inaugural committee after being a large bundler to President Barack Obama and 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.


Heyward St., Columbia: $22,800

Sandy and Sam McGuckin, founders of insurance software firm TCube Solutions (now owned by Capgemini), where Smith worked as a consultant  

Saint James St., Columbia: $21,850

Nina and James Smith Sr., Smith's parents 

1476 Ben Sawyer Blvd., Mount Pleasant: $17,333

Ramsdale Family Law, run by Marie-Louise Ramsdale, whose clients have included former South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford 

400 Interstate North Parkway, Atlanta: $15,000

Stonemark Management, a real estate investment firm that has apartment complexes in eight states, including eight in South Carolina.

CORRECTION: An address and contribution amount listed under Democrat state Rep. James Smith's top donors was incorrect. The address for Stonemark Management is 400 Interstate North Parkway in Atlanta and the contribution total was $15,000. Companies tied to State Ports Authority Chairman Bill Stern contributed only to Republican Gov. Henry McMaster's campaign. 

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Columbia Bureau Chief

Shain runs The Post and Courier's team based in South Carolina's capital city. He was editor of Free Times and has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Charlotte, Columbia and Myrtle Beach.