SC Republicans celebrate ‘red wave’ sweep across the state

Republican incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster's victory Tuesday night gives him a second full term...
Republican incumbent Gov. Henry McMaster's victory Tuesday night gives him a second full term in office. By the time he completes that term, he will have made history as the longest-serving governor in South Carolina history.
Published: Nov. 9, 2022 at 2:14 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - The South Carolina GOP said Tuesday’s midterm elections proved what they already know: that the Palmetto State is a “solid Republican state.”

State GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said “a red wave swept across South Carolina from the coast all the way to the Upstate,” with Republicans flipping eight State House seats, seven county council seats and several other local races.

CLICK HERE to see the latest election results.

U.S. Senator Tim Scott won reelection to what he said will be his last term serving South Carolina, beating state Rep. Krystle Matthews. Scott’s victory was the first officially called by the Associated Press. That call came in about 38 seconds after polls closed at 7 p.m. Tuesday.

Scott beat Matthews for a second full term. He was appointed to the Senate in 2013 by then-Gov. Nikki Haley when Jim DeMint resigned.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace won re-election to her second term as First District Congresswoman, beating out Democrat Dr. Annie Andrews, a pediatrician who supported access to abortions in the red state and heightened firearms restrictions to counter the nation’s alarming wave of gun violence.

The 1st District representing Charleston and neighboring rural counties had seesawed in recent years between the two major political parties. Democrat Joe Cunningham, who ran unsuccessfully for governor on Tuesday, had won the seat in 2018 before losing to Mace in the ensuing election.

Republican state legislative leaders acknowledged that they drew new maps of the 1st District to not only adjust for population growth but to also add more potential Republican voters. A trial over whether those districts discriminate against Black people by diluting their voting power is ongoing in federal court.

Mace previously won a contested Republican primary that became a referendum of sorts on former President Donald Trump’s influence after he endorsed her primary opponent.

Meanwhile, Republican Russel Fry, who had toppled veteran Congressman Tom Rice of South Carolina in a primary with Trump’s backing, handily won the seat in Tuesday’s general election.

A state representative, Fry beat Democratic challenger Daryl Scott for the 7th House seat. The five-term incumbent Rice was the first of the 10 House Republicans to lose a reelection bid after voting to impeach Trump over the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riots.

Fry’s victory marks the first time in 10 years that voters in the red Myrtle Beach congressional district will send a new elected official to Washington. At his election night watch party, Fry declared he would prioritize fighting inflation and securing the border.

“I’m going to join a new wave of conservative congressmen who are going to walk up the Capitol steps, look [Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi in the eye -- and what are we going to say to her?” Fry asked the crowd. “You are fired!”

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster defeated Democratic challenger Joe Cunningham, who lost his House seat to Mace in 2020. McMaster’s victory means he is poised to serve as governor for a total of 10 years, making him the longest-serving governor in state history.

He rose to the role of governor to complete the remainder of Haley’s term after she stepped down when then-President Donald Trump appointed her to serve as ambassador for the United Nations.

McMaster beat Cunningham by 18 points, 10 points higher than his 2018 victory over state Rep. James Smith.

In the superintendent of education race, Republican Ellen Weaver, who has never been a teacher, but previously served as the chair of the state’s Education Oversight Committee and heads the conservative think tank Palmetto Promise Institute, defeated Democrat Lisa Ellis, who spent more than 20 years working in schools, mainly as a teacher.

Of the major races, the only one Democratic victory was House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, 82, who defeated Republican challenger Duke Buckner with 62% of the vote, earning Clyburn a 16th term in the U.S. House.

McKissick: ‘You have to work for it’

While most of the victories did not come as a surprise, the SCGOP said its coordinated Victory Program, which works to elect the entire Republican ticket, was the largest it’s ever been for a midterm election, being five times bigger than the 2018 organization.

Since July, the Party knocked on 137,000 doors, compared to 15,000 in 2018, made 333,614 phone calls, sent 654,522 text messages, and sent almost two million pieces of mail.

“Wins like this don’t just happen. You have to work for it, and we have to do our job,” McKissick said. “We had a great operation with fantastic staff, great volunteers, great candidates, and a great message and that made all the difference.”

A large portion of the historic wins is attributed to the straight ticket vote. Republicans beat Democrats on the straight ticket vote by a record-breaking 27 points. Roughly one million people voted straight ticket, with 62% being Republican. Almost 60% of all Republican votes were cast straight ticket.

In 2016, Republicans beat Democrats on straight-ticket voting for the first time in state history by 2.5 points. In 2018, Republicans beat Democrats on straight-ticket by eight points. In 2020, Republicans beat Democrats on straight-ticket by 17 points.

In addition to statewide races, the party flipped five state House seats including victories for Matt Leber for House District 116, in Charleston and Colleton Counties; and Jordan Pace in District 117, representing Berkeley County. The state GOP also picked up three new House seats, including House District 80, where Kathy Landing will represent Charleston County.

For local races, the party said it gained the majority if Charleston County Council, flipped one council seat in Jasper, Fairfield, Clarendon and Chesterfield Counties and two in Union County and won an at-large seat on Chester County Council.

Other flips included probate judge seats in Greenville and McCormick Counties; the Jasper County auditor, the Chesterfield County sheriff and the Union County supervisor.