HEALTH RUMORS DOG GOVERNOR …
To say the 2018 campaign of South Carolina’s “Republican” governor Henry McMaster has been underwhelming would be paying it an undeserved compliment.
It has been nothing short of a disaster …
In the span of just half a year, McMaster has gone from being an unrivaled incumbent with no credible opposition to being one of the most vulnerable governors in America – with three announced opponents campaigning against him for his own party’s nomination (including a political novice who has taken the race by storm).
The unexpected rise of Mount Pleasant, S.C. attorney Catherine Templeton has not only badly exposed McMaster’s political weakness (as well as his affiliation with the Palmetto State’s failed status quo) – but it has invited other challengers into the fray.
Sitting lieutenant governor Kevin Bryant of Anderson, S.C. jumped into the race last week, while fiscal conservative champion Tom Davis – a State Senator from Beaufort, S.C. – is expected to announce his candidacy within the next few weeks.
Both Davis and Bryant – like Templeton – are expected to mount credible, well-funded campaigns.
The only good thing going for McMaster? His proximity to U.S. president Donald Trump, who has reportedly agreed to campaign and raise money for McMaster.
This week, McMaster’s reelection prospects dimmed even further thanks to some devastating economic news. A surprise decision by government-run utility Santee Cooper to stop construction on a pair of new nuclear reactors in Jenkinsville, S.C. has cost the Palmetto State 5,000 jobs and thrown its energy future into doubt.
McMaster’s response to the #NukeGate scandal?
It wasn’t pretty …
“What I’ve, uh, recommended is that the legislature have hearings, and, and bring forth witnesses, and ask – let everybody ask all the questions that they want to ask and get answers from people who know – and lets find out exactly what did happen, if there’s any fault, any blame,” McMaster told WOLO TV 25 (ABC – Columbia, S.C.).
Wait … hearings? To find out “if” there is any fault or blame?
If you think that’s a terribly tone deaf response, you are absolutely correct. But the video of McMaster’s reaction was far less inspiring.
He looked … not well.
Ordinarily, our focus would be on McMaster’s woefully inadequate response to this unmitigated economic disaster – how the very last thing people who lost their jobs (or their money) want to hear right now is a politician is calling for “hearings.”
But something else is at play here … something that could create another major problem for a campaign that’s already showing signs of foundering.
“WE WERE A LITTLE EMBARRASSED FOR HIM”
(Via: SC Governor)
Back in the spring, McMaster gave some remarks in Florence, S.C. One of our sources was there, and reached out to us following his speech with a troubling assessment.
“It was pretty incoherent,” the source told us. “We were a little embarrassed for him.”
Earlier, a source who sat alongside McMaster and his wife Peggy McMaster at a dinner in Columbia, S.C. echoed those concerns.
“We weren’t sure he knew where he was,” the source told us, adding that the governor seemed “glazed.”
Concerns over McMaster’s health – long a topic of conversation within the Palmetto political echo chamber – are now bubbling up to a broader audience.
“(It’s) beginning to be more and more discussed,” one source told us.
While he was still serving as lieutenant governor, a rumor began making the rounds in “Republican” circles that McMaster, who turned 70 years old back in May, was suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease – a chronic neurodegenerative condition that erodes one’s memory, speech, motivation and eventually their physical capabilities as well. Eventually, the disease – which is untreatable – leads to death.
Nearly 30 million people worldwide suffer from various stages of Alzheimer’s – including six percent of all people 65 years of age or older. Average life expectancy following a diagnosis is anywhere from three to nine years.
How did McMaster respond to this rumor?
“I AIN’T GOT NO ALZHEIMER’S”
(Click to view)
Not long after taking office as lieutenant governor, McMaster placed a phone call to SCGOP chairman Matt Moore.
It was not a friendly call …
According to multiple sources familiar with the substance of the conversation, McMaster accused the young party chairman of starting the Alzheimer’s rumor in an effort to hurt him politically.
“I ain’t got no Alzheimer’s,” McMaster reportedly barked at Moore, demanding he stop spreading the rumors.
Sources at the SCGOP and in the lieutenant governor’s office at the time confirmed the call.
Moore wasn’t behind the rumors, though, and told McMaster as much.
According to one SCGOP staffer familiar with the conversation, Moore told McMaster the rumors originated from the S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP) – which had prepared extensive opposition research on McMaster during the 2014 election cycle. That research, we’re told, included first-hand accounts of McMaster’s condition supplied by political associates and members of his Columbia, S.C. church and country club.
Democrats denied the allegation, claiming the rumors were started by operatives within McMaster’s own political empire who were eager to see him take a backseat to S.C. attorney general Alan Wilson in the 2018 election.
McMaster and Wilson have built their political careers via their association with the consulting empire of Richard Quinn and Associates – the firm at the heart of an ongoing criminal investigation into corruption within state government.
In fact prior to Wilson imploding his political career in an effort to obstruct this investigation, he was viewed as the likely “Quinn candidate” for governor in 2018 – a decision which angered McMaster and his longtime advisor (and current chief-of-staff), Trey Walker.
Sources close to the “Quinndom” angrily denied any connection to the rumor. In fact they pointed the finger of blame at former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley, whose chosen candidate for lieutenant governor in 2014 – Pat McKinney – was defeated by McMaster in the GOP primary election that year.
“This also started with Nikki Haley,” one Quinn lieutenant told us.
“TROUBLE FOLLOWING ALONG …”
(Via: Travis Bell Photography)
Whoever the rumor started, by early 2015 it had gained considerable traction as McMaster inherited the largely ceremonial duties of the lieutenant governor’s office.
Among those duties? Presiding over the State Senate during its annual six-month legislative session in 2015 and 2016. It was during this time that we began to hear numerous reports from State Senators and State House staffers expressing their concern as to McMaster’s condition.
“Slow,” “forgetful,” “confused,” “disoriented,” were among the adjectives these lawmakers used to describe McMaster.
“He was having trouble following along,” one Senator told us confidentially. “It was noticeable.”
Curiously, though, Davis – who is likely to soon become one of McMaster’s rivals for the GOP gubernatorial nomination – disputed that contention.
“I always thought Henry did a good job presiding over the Senate,” Davis told us. “He was attentive during the debate and always issued the proper rulings when questions of procedure were put to him. I think he distinguished himself in that role as lieutenant governor.”
During his tense phone conversation with McMaster, we’re told Moore confirmed to him that a number of State Senators had been openly discussing their concerns about his health.
Which they were …
And of course who can forget the infamous joke made by Cheryl Stanton, who continues to serve under McMaster as director of the state’s Department of Employment and Workforce (SCDEW). When McMaster’s beloved English bulldog “Boots” died this spring, Stanton joked “(now) who is going to run South Carolina?”
Reached for comment, Moore declined to discuss his conversation with McMaster or engage in any speculation as to his health.
“I wanted nothing to do with this story then and I want nothing to do with it now,” he told us.
To be fair, McMaster has never been known for having an abounding intellect. Which is why the suggestion that he is “slow,” “forgetful,” “confused,” or “disoriented” isn’t necessarily indicative of an underlying health issue.
Having said that, at this point it’s clear there is a narrative building behind the scenes that could further imperil what is already an unexpectedly rocky reelection bid.
WANNA SOUND OFF?
Got something you’d like to say in response to one of our stories? In addition to our always lively comments section (below), please feel free to submit your own guest column or letter to the editor via-email HERE or via our tip-line HERE …
Banner via S.C. Governor