MOUNT PLEASANT — Republican candidates in the South Carolina governor's race on Monday deployed one of two tactics when addressing a GOP women's group: Ingratiate yourself with former Gov. Nikki Haley or take aim at current Gov. Henry McMaster.
Two gubernatorial candidates — Mount Pleasant attorney Catherine Templeton and Greenville businessman John Warren — joined McMaster's running mate Pamela Evette at the latest meeting of the East Cooper Republican Women's Club.
Each candidate was allowed five minutes to make their political pitch. South Carolina first lady Peggy McMaster took one minute to introduce Evette, a Greenville business owner and political newcomer who is now running for lieutenant governor.
"I hear as I travel around the state how wonderful Henry is, and the wonderful things he's done for the state," Evette told the 60 attendees at the Hilton Garden Inn. "You know, our former governor Nikki Haley put him on the ethics committee."
Evette said McMaster does his own research, research that she said led to him firing the chairman of Santee Cooper's board and vetoing a bill to raise gas taxes.
Despite taking repeated aim at McMaster on social media last week for his handling of the deadly prison riots at Lee Correctional Institution, Templeton used part of her five minutes to instead strengthen her ties to Haley, who is now U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.
"I'm one of the first people that Governor Haley asked to help her make it a great day in South Carolina," Templeton started by telling the room.
First tapped by Haley to serve as the state's labor department director, Templeton would later be asked to lead the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
"When she interviewed me, she said interviewing me was like interviewing herself," Templeton said.
Warren took another route. The former Marine took aim at McMaster, singling him out for receiving $115,000 in contributions from SCANA before the utility announced it was abandoning its efforts to build two nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station. Templeton has received $15,000 in contributions from board members of Santee Cooper.
"I am the only candidate who did not take money from the Santee Cooper board," Warren said. "I tell people we live in the greatest state in the union by far. The only thing that can hold it back is our state government."
The governor spent his noontime hour speaking at the Myrtle Beach Rotary Club, according to his public schedule.
Mary Ann Taylor, president of the East Cooper Republican Women's Club, said the respective campaigns for McMaster, Templeton and Warren reached out to the club to speak at Monday's meeting.
Republicans Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill are also vying for the governorship.
Three candidates are running in the Democratic primary: Charleston business owner Phil Noble, state Rep. James Smith and Florence antitrust attorney Marguerite Willis.
Primaries will be held in June.