COLUMBIA — The two candidates for South Carolina governor have formally submitted the names of their running mates to election officials, kicking off the state's first-ever race in which the governor and lieutenant governor will run on a joint ticket.
The change, first approved by voters in a 2012 ballot referendum, also means that the winners will work much more in tandem than the state's top two elected officials have in years past, moving to a similar model to that of a president and vice-president.
Incumbent Republican Gov. Henry McMaster tapped Travelers Rest businesswoman Pamela Evette as his running mate last fall, adding a political newcomer to the ticket to balance out McMaster's extensive background as a political insider.
State Rep. James Smith, a combat veteran and 22-year legislator from Columbia, named fellow state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell of Lancaster as his lieutenant governor pick in May.
While the running mates can help politically to balance the tickets, the candidates also have begun to think about how they will use a cooperative lieutenant governor to advance their policy goals if they win.
Smith, 50, outlined four primary roles he sees Norrell playing as his lieutenant governor: Offering input on policy; working as a legislative liaison to advance their agenda in the Statehouse; finding and recruiting potential appointees; and helping oversight of cabinet state agencies.
As a lifelong Lancaster resident, Norrell, 45, would help to recruit prospects for government appointments from rural areas of the state that are sometimes overlooked, Smith said.
“There is tremendous untapped talent in South Carolina, and we don’t take full advantage of that fact,” he said. “She will help find and recruit a diverse pool of appointees from across our state, and help me get them in place right away.”
On the campaign trail, Evette has highlighted her business experience as a key asset.
With a son at Greenville Technical College, Evette also has spoken about the importance of technical schools to train the state's workforce.
McMaster campaign spokeswoman Caroline Anderegg said Evette would help to "extend the reach of the governor's office" and work closely with local governments and state agencies if she and McMaster were elected.
"An outsider with a background in accounting, Pamela will bring a much-needed set of fresh eyes and perspective on how to best serve South Carolina's taxpayers," Anderegg said.
After S.C. GOP chairman Drew McKissick certified McMaster, 71, and Evette, 50, as the party's nominees Wednesday morning, the governor said he would work with his running mate as a "cooperative team" if elected.
"We'll be full partners, that's the idea behind this," McMaster said. "The challenges and opportunities that we have, and the successes, will be handled by us jointly for the people of this state."
The two gubernatorial candidates have taken different approaches to using their running mates on the campaign trail.
Smith and Norrell often travel the state together, seeking to demonstrate that they are a package deal and would work closely together as a team if elected.
McMaster and Evette, by contrast, have regularly campaigned in separate parts of the state, particularly during the GOP primary, allowing them to cover double the ground and freeing up McMaster to remain focused on his day job as governor.
The McMaster campaign has effectively used Evette as their top surrogate, advocating on the governor's behalf at events he cannot attend himself because of his duties as governor.
That type of role could continue if she were to become lieutenant governor, venturing out of Columbia to tout McMaster's efforts to the public and returning with feedback.
Experts say the political impact either running mate will have during the campaign may be limited.
"At the end of the day, I think people vote for who their governor is going to be based on who's at the top of the ticket," said College of Charleston political science professor Gibbs Knotts, citing polls from presidential races that show voters tend to focus solely on the main candidate.
But once they are elected, the new structure could give the governor's office a valuable asset to advance their ideas in a state that gives much of the policy-making authority to the Legislature.
"In South Carolina, they've really been completely separate," Knotts said of past governors and lieutenant governors. "It may now be one more weapon in the future governor's arsenal to be able to tag team with the lieutenant governor and make their case to the public, who can then put pressure on the Legislature."