NORTH CHARLESTON — Gov. Henry McMaster railed against Democratic policies such as border control, District of Columbia statehood and expanding the number of U.S. Supreme Court justices during a brief speech at the Charleston County GOP convention on Saturday.
"We are at war," McMaster said. "I don't know that the party has ever been stronger than it is right now, but probably never more frustrated either to watch what's going on at the national level. It is just a tragedy."
McMaster was one of several political figures who appeared at Trident Technical on April 17 for the county's annual GOP convention. Other speakers included S.C. Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick and Mark Meckler, CEO of the right-wing social media app Parler.
All three rallied county delegates and members in an attempt to the unite the GOP voting base as factions begin to form nationally and locally as the party faces a dire identity crisis following the ouster of former President Donald J. Trump as well as the loss of a Senate majority and the inability to win a majority in the House this past November.
McMaster made a plea to convention attendees to support Republicans in every possible office.
"If we don't get the Congress back, and we don't get the Senate back, and then in two more years after that we don't get the presidency back, I do not know what is going to happen to us," McMaster said.
Further illustrating the divide among some Republicans is an attempt by attorney Lin Wood, an unapologetic pro-Trump lawyer who continues to push conspiracy theories about the presidential election, to replace McKissick as S.C. GOP chairman.
Despite making a rambunctious appearance at the Charleston County GOP meeting on April 12 to campaign, he did not appear at the statewide convention this weekend.
Maurice Washington, chairman of the Charleston County GOP, said Wood was traveling out of state. The pro-Trump attorney appeared in Tulsa, Okla., over the weekend at the conservative Health and Freedom Conference, where he continued to push conspiracy theories about the election.
But, in North Charleston, McKissick didn't mention Wood's candidacy in his speech and, instead, highlighted the state party's successes under his tenure.
Last year, the S.C. GOP expanded its grip on the Legislature, won back South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District and helped Sen. Lindsey Graham win a fourth term, defeating a highly funded Democratic opponent.
When McKissick was asked by The Post and Courier what he thought about Wood's campaign, he quickly blew it off.
"Anybody's got the right to run for chairmen," McKissick said. "It's a free country and it's a free party."
When McMaster was leaving the convention, the governor told the newspaper he supported McKissick and said he was unfamiliar with Wood's ideas.
While just a week earlier, dozens of supporters flocked to the Charleston County meeting to listen to Wood speak, few expressed support for him at the April 17 convention.
Jill Williams, a St. Andrews 4th precinct president for the Charleston County GOP, said she supports McKissick over Wood. She believes there are some divides in the county party, but said it all comes down to winning elections, which she said the current party chairmen has experience in.
"I would still support Drew," Williams said. "I don't think Lin's been in South Carolina long enough to know our issues. They are some factions in the party but, overall, we're united in wanting to take things back."
While all the speakers continued to show their support for Trump, and even though merchandise for the former president was being sold outside the convention hall some attendees thought it was time for the party to stop lingering on the election loss.
Chris Cannon, the St. Andrews 4th precinct executive committeeman for the Charleston County GOP, said he was fed up with all the Trump talk.
"The Republican Party lost control of the federal government because of Trump," Cannon said. "We should move on and work to get some good candidates in the future."
Overall, the April 17 event was calm and orderly minus an error with the ballots to elect delegates to the state convention in May. The ballots needed to be counted after the speeches concluded.
During the Charleston County GOP convention, McMaster awarded former Sheriff Al Cannon with the Order of the Palmetto Award — the highest civilian honor that can be gifted by the governor.
The statewide convention is slated for May 15, but the date still needs to be finalized by the state Republican Party.