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Former Rep. Cunningham Running for S.C. Governor

April 27, 2021 by Dan McCue
Former Rep. Joe Cunningham.

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Former Rep. Joe Cunningham put an end to months of speculation Monday, formally announcing that he will challenge incumbent Republican Gov. Henry McMaster in this year’s gubernatorial race.

Cunningham became a political sensation in the Palmetto State when he beat incredible odds and flipped the state’s 1st Congressional District to the Democrats for the first time in memory.

And his quest this year is no less quixotic — if he wins, he’ll be the first Democrat elected governor in South Carolina since Jim Hodges in 1998.

He’d also be defeating a formidable opponent well versed in the rough and tumble of South Carolina politics. In 2018, McMaster defeated his last challenger, Democrat James Smith, by over 8 percentage points.

In a video posted to Cunningham’s Facebook page, the candidate who lost his Congressional seat to Republican Nancy Mace in November, said he was “running for Governor of South Carolina because the challenges we face aren’t because of our people, they’re because of our politicians.”

“I think the test of a true leader is whether or not you’ll be honest with people about the real challenges facing our state and have the backbone to actually fix them,” he told Charleston’s Post & Courier newspaper. “McMaster failed that test, but I won’t.”  

Cunningham, a moderate Democrat, won his congressional election in 2018 by focusing on local issues, something he’s sure to emphasize in the statewide race.

Following Cunningham’s announcement, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick had a simple message for the Democrat, delivered via Twitter: “Bring it on.”

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