Trump assembles SC leadership team, some lawmakers participate

Former President Donald Trump held his first campaign rally of 2024 in South Carolina at the State House on Saturday.

Trump announces leadership team

Trump announced his leadership team for 2024 in South Carolina.

Along with Governor Henry McMaster, the leadership team also includes Lt. gov. Pamela Evette; US Senator Lindsey Graham; US Representatives Russell Fry, William Timmons and Joe Wilson; State Treasurer Curtis Loftis; former SC Lt. gov. Other Bauer; former South Carolina legislator and US Attorney Peter McCoy; and Ed McMullen, Trump’s former ambassador to Switzerland.

Former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally at the South Carolina Statehouse, Saturday, January 28, 2023, in Columbia, SC Sen. Lindsey Graham, RS.C., right, and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, second from left, look on . (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) Alex Brandon AP

Trump on electric vehicles

Trump on Afghanistan, immigration, crime, windmills and other social issues in his more than 30-minute speeches on Saturday.

In his remarks, the former president addressed electric vehicles and questioned the Biden administration’s prioritization of electric vehicles.

“Everyone will be on the freeway and we’ll be looking for a little plug-in,” Trump said on Twitter Associated Press reporter Meg Kinnard.

South Carolina’s political leaders have been pushing to expand electric vehicle manufacturing in the state.

Gov. Henry McMaster signed an executive order to attract more electric vehicle businesses to the state, and in recent months auto companies have announced huge investments to prioritize electric vehicle manufacturing. Recently, Lt. gov. Pamela Evette promoting free charging stations in state parks.

Trump speaks in South Carolina

Trump said in the second floor lobby of the State House that he was “thrilled to be back in the great state of South Carolina.”

“South Carolina chooses presidents,” he said. “You’ve heard that before.”

South Carolina is an early primary state in the presidential nomination contest. Trump won South Carolina in 2016. In 2020, the state Republican Party smashed the primary.

Trump announced that Gov. Henry McMaster, an early Trump supporter, will lead his leadership team in South Carolina for 2024.

Former President Donald Trump speaks Saturday, January 28, 2023 at the South Carolina State House in Columbia. Joseph Bustos [email protected]

A handful of current ex-SC lawmakers show support

Governor Henry McMaster and Lt. gov. Pamela Evette, Sen. Lindsey Graham and House Representatives Russell Fry, William Timmons and Joe Wilson are present.

Aside from dozens of Trump supporters, there are also a small handful of state lawmakers, including Senate President Thomas Alexander, R-Oconee, and House Speaker Murrell Smith, a Sumter Republican who told reporters in the state house Saturday that in his role as Spokesman is present to greet the former president, although he makes no comments and his presence is not an endorsement, SC ETV’s Gavin Jackson tweeted.

The Republican lawmakers in attendance included the state senator. Penry Gustafson of Kershaw; and State Reps. Melissa Oremus, by Aiken; Bobby Cox from Greenville; and freshman condition Rep. Thomas Beach, R-AndersonThe State said it supported Trump’s presidential candidacy.

“I’m sure we’re going to have some really great candidates and iron sharpens iron. But he did the job. I’m so proud of him. And I can’t wait for him to return to the White House,” he said.

Former State Assemblyman Peter McCoy, a Charleston Republican who was appointed US Attorney for South Carolina by Trump, was also seen at Trump’s event.

Trump was last in South Carolina in March 2022, campaigning in Florence to boost the current Representative’s campaigns. Fry and Katie Arrington, a former lawmaker who unsuccessfully ran against US Rep. Nancy Mace. Arrington attended Trump’s Saturday event, held in the State House on the second floor between the House and Senate chambers.

Earlier Saturday, Trump spoke in New Hampshire, another early voting state, where he addressed his campaign agenda, immigration and crime, the Associated Press reported. So far, Trump is the only candidate who has publicly declared his candidacy for 2024.

Trump, who remains criminal and state and federal scrutiny in connection with the discovery of documents bearing classified markings and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, sparked controversy early in his campaign when he spoke to the Holocaust-denying white nationalist Nick Fuentes and rapper Kanye West, who has made anti-Semitic comments.

A handful of other Republicans are likely to climb into the presidential ring with Trump.

At least two South Carolina Republicans, former Gov. Nikki Haley and Senator Tim Scott, are among a group of possible presidential candidates for 2024. Haley has teased a campaign more aggressively in recent weeks. Scott, who won re-election to the Senate for his final term in 2022, will attend his own event in Washington on Saturday, McClatchyDC reported this week.

Speaking to reporters after his campaign halt in New Hampshire, Trump told ABC News through Olivia Rubin that Haley called him recently to say “she’d like to consider a run in 2024.” Haley told reporters from South Carolina back in April 2021 that she “wouldn’t run if President Trump ran.”

Pro-Trump supporters, some uninvited, lined up outside the State House for the event early Saturday. However, not everyone who stood in line was able to attend the event.

The Sumter Street side of the State House — most public facilities were barricaded Saturday — was open. Only a small number of protesters could be seen outside the State House, lined up on the sidewalk leading to Gervais Street.

South Carolina ETV will livestream Trump’s event.

Reporters Joseph Bustos, Javon Harris, and Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story was originally published Jan 28, 2023 4:52 p.m.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) is Editor-in-Chief of The State’s Politics and Government team. She has been reporting on SC State House and politics for The State since 2017. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013. She previously worked at Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She has won reportage awards in South Carolina.
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