S.C. Race for Governor: Joe Cunningham in Pendleton

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On Wednesday, September 14th, Joe Cunningham visited Pendleton Brewing Company for a meet and greet fundraising event for his campaign for governor. Cunningham is running as the Democratic candidate for the 2022 election. At the event, Cunningham appeared before a diverse crowd, ranging from elderly to first-time voters from multiple demographics. Cunningham began the meet and greet with a short speech about his campaign. 

Responding to the negative attack-ads run by McMaster’s campaign, he joked, “For the record, I was never in a fraternity.”

Cunningham continued with a rallying speech featuring important issues on Cunningham’s platform.  

“We’re gonna raise teacher’s salaries, because I don’t want these teachers to have to quit on us. We’re gonna raise revenue for the state by legalizing marijuana and sports betting so you can all go place bets on Carolina and Clemson next football season.”

Cunningham also stated: 

“I believe everyone has a right to do what is best for their bodies, especially women. McMaster is pushing an abortion bill that will ban abortions with no exceptions for rape, incest, or medical complications. We’ve gotta stop this.” 

He continued, “We’re gonna give more freedom to the people of South Carolina by eliminating the state income tax and temporarily suspending the gas tax.” 

Interestingly enough, Cunningham’s platform, complete with the name “Joe’s Freedom Agenda” pegs Cunningham as more of a libertarian than a Democrat. Cunningham’s policies of legalizing marijuana and sports betting, preventing vaccine mandates and abortion bans, and eliminating the state income tax give Cunningham a more palatable edge for the majority-conservative constituency. Cunningham is currently 7 points behind McMaster, according to a poll obtained by the Charleston City Paper from Impact Research. 

A close race between a Republican and a Democrat for governor in South Carolina is notable. Cunningham’s success is likely a reflection of increased voter turnout among young people who support his quasi- libertarian agenda and a growing frustration with career politicians like McMaster. His success may also be somewhat attributable to the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The aftermath of this landmark decision is likely to show its face in upcoming local and statewide elections, and Cunningham’s campaign is a perfect case study. However, Cunningham’s ability to use the abortion issue to bolster his campaign may instead serve to cripple his success. In a conservative state, pushing issues like abortion to the forefront of one’s campaign is unlikely to garner a majority of votes, especially in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision. Regardless, Cunningham’s campaign will indicate the sentiment of the state in the wake of Dobbs in the 2022 elections. *

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