Henry McMaster is not going to like this.
Pundits and political reporters said he was set to become South Carolina’s longest-serving governor. And, without a doubt, McMaster really likes the sound of that.
Although he has spent a good part of his career in elective office, this is a next-level feat. Why, it’s one for the history books.
All the governor has to do is win in November, which every Republican candidate in this state has done for the past 20 years. If he completes a second four-year term – after his first and two years out of former Gov. Nikki Haley’s second term – McMaster will only have spent a few days before 10 years in the governor’s mansion.
That’s more than Dick Riley, more than Carroll Campbell, and more than Mark Sanford (who lost maybe a week or so to, uh, vacation).
Before these guys, South Carolina governors were constitutionally limited to four-year terms. So unless upset by Democrat Joe Cunningham this fall, McMaster has 10 years of work at hand.
The problem is – and it’s a real kick in your old panties – that is not it the record.
State historian Walter Edgar — the veteran of academia, literature and a popular public radio show — says South Carolina’s longest-serving chief executive is actually James Glen, royal governor of the province of South Carolina from at least December 19, 1743, to June 1. , 1756.
Glen served almost 13 years, or 18 years according to some interpretations. Either way, his tenure was much longer than McMaster’s best-case scenario.
“James Glen was actually appointed in 1738, but he didn’t come until late 1743,” says Edgar. “Even if you just count the time he’s been here, that makes him the longest-serving governor in the state. Not only that, he was the most effective colonial governor we had.
Glen’s long tenure as governor testifies to his effectiveness. Edgar says the Scottish-born politician has managed to work well with all the different factions in the state, balancing their disparate demands well.
He was obviously qualified for the job, but Edgar says he may have been hired in part because of, well, family reasons. reports. His sister was the mistress of Sir Robert Walpole, the British Prime Minister when Glen was appointed. And Glen’s wife was the illegitimate daughter of the Earl of Wilmington, an important adviser to the crown.
Regardless of the period in history, look behind every successful politician, and you’ll find some sketchy links.
Cunningham – who has made a big deal of some politicians’ ages recently – would probably say McMaster should remember Glen because, well, maybe he was around at the time.
No, it was Strom.
But Governor McMaster should probably study Glen’s successful public record, as he faces some of the same hardships the royal governor overcame. That includes brushes with multiple hurricanes, though Glen never had to make any tough choices on I-26 lane reversals, because, well…
One of the greatest controversies of Glen’s time was how the House of Assembly of Commons (analogous to our present legislature) took it upon itself to appoint the vast majority of the county’s official positions and the hundreds of patronage jobs that the province was to distribute.
The governor was only authorized to appoint justices of the peace and he did not hesitate to complain about this limited power.
Some things never change.
Eventually Glen was fired because the British thought he was far too friendly to the settlers…which would become a bit of a sore point with England about a decade after his service ended (see: Day of the Independence).
McMaster can take comfort in one thing. He could still end up becoming the oldest elected governor in the history of South Carolina. See, as Edgar points out, our state legislature appointed governors until 1865 – after the Civil War.
True, and typical of this state. South Carolina residents weren’t even allowed to vote for their own governor until Reconstruction. This is one of the few times state lawmakers have conceded power.
Governor term limits were changed by constitutional referendum in 1980 (and only because the legislature authorized it and reserved the right not to even ratify it, of course). This led, more than 40 years later, to McMaster’s luck in history.
He may have to live with an asterisk next to his name.
If it makes you feel better, Governor, Barry Bonds is feeling your pain.