Former S.C. Attorney General Henry McMaster hopes to be an advocate for economic development and small businesses, in addition to championing causes for senior citizens, if he is elected lieutenant governor, he told a group of Sun City Hilton Head residents Wednesday.
Speaking to about 20 people, McMaster said he would continue to work on causes to benefit senior citizens, such as a possible tax reduction for the elderly. Along with presiding over the state Senate, the lieutenant governor oversees the state's Office on Aging.
"At some point, I think we've paid enough," he said. "There should be a small (tax) reduction to allow the elderly to stay in their homes." He did not give details about the reduction, but he did say he preferred leaning more on the state's sales tax than income taxes.
Charleston developer Pat McKinney, Columbia pastor Ray Moore and Columbia businessman Mike Campbell also seek the Republican Party's nomination for lieutenant governor in the June 10 primary. The winner faces Rep. Bakari Sellers, the lone Democratic candidate, in the Nov. 4 general election.
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McMaster was attorney general from 2003 to 2011, was a U.S. attorney in South Carolina during the 1980s and was chairman of the state's Republican Party in the 1990s. After an unsuccessful run for governor in 2010, McMaster was appointed to the state's ethics reform commission in 2012.
McMaster said Wednesday he decided to run for lieutenant governor after the incumbent, Republican Glenn McConnell, was chosen to be the president of the College of Charleston.
In addition to his focus on senior citizen causes, McMaster said he would protect small businesses and entice large companies to the state.
Ensuring a $300 million deepening of Charleston's port occurs is another crucial step in the state's economic development, McMaster said. If the port is deepened to allow larger ships, it could give South Carolina one of the premier ports on the East Coast, he said.
However, some attendees asked McMaster why a proposed Jasper County port was not being funded. Sun City resident Tori Gersbacher said money needed to be allocated to Jasper County -- one of the poorest counties in the state -- rather than to the Charleston area. She told McMaster it was another sign that politicians had "forgotten about the southern part of the state."
McMaster said money would likely go to the Jasper County port after the Charleston project was completed.
Although McMaster said the Republican primary would probably end up in a runoff, his campaign manager, Jeff Taillon, said recent polling data indicate the former attorney general is ahead of his Republican rivals. Taillon said McMaster was prepared for a runoff, but there is a "reasonable expectation" he could win the primary outright June 10.
The winner of the lieutenant governor's race will be the last in which the governor and lieutenant governor will be elected separately. Starting in 2018, both will run on the same ticket.
Follow reporter Matt McNab at twitter.com/IPBG_Matt.