COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina gubernatorial candidate who has courted support from both President Donald Trump and his former strategist Steve Bannon said Wednesday she was not fazed by apparent discord between the two men.
“I am a fan of both of these men, and a huge supporter of the president,” Catherine Templeton told The Associated Press. “For the sake of the conservative movement and the Trump agenda so many Americans like me believe in, I know they will resolve their differences and work together again to drain the establishment swamp, and all of the corrupt career politicians who fester there.”
Templeton, South Carolina’s former health and labor chief, was reacting to a statement in which Trump said Bannon “not only lost his job, he lost his mind” when he left the White House. That came in response to an unflattering new book by writer Michael Wolff that paints Trump as a juvenile in many ways who doesn’t understand the weight of the presidency and spends his evenings eating cheeseburgers in bed, watching television and talking on the phone to his old friends.
Both Trump and his former strategist, who has returned to the helm of Breitbart News, have played roles in South Carolina’s gubernatorial contest. As the state’s lieutenant governor, Henry McMaster in early 2016 became the first statewide elected official in the country to endorse Trump’s presidential candidacy. Months later, the newly minted president-elect cleared McMaster’s path to South Carolina’s top slot by picking then-Gov. Nikki Haley as his U.N. ambassador.
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Templeton was also summoned to New York City’s Trump Tower for vetting for an administration slot, ultimately turning down a labor position and returning to South Carolina to launch her gubernatorial bid.
Last year, Trump again repaid McMaster’s early loyalty by officially endorsing the longtime establishment Republican in his quest for a first full term. Bannon’s made no endorsement in South Carolina’s contest, but Templeton says they’ve remained in touch since she was courted for an administration job. She introduced him at an event at The Citadel last year, telling AP in advance that “Steve Bannon is doing for the nation what I have been doing for South Carolina, and we aren’t going to back down because it makes the big-government liberals or the self-dealing establishment mad.”
Bannon has been wading into state-level politics since leaving the White House, focusing on picking off Senate Republicans he sees as stodgy establishment fixtures in favor of candidates he views as friendly to the Trump administration. He backed firebrand jurist Roy Moore in Alabama’s U.S. Senate contest, a race that ultimately ended in victory for Democrat Doug Jones in part after the festering of sexual abuse allegations against Moore.
In South Carolina, Templeton has framed herself as an establishment-challenging outsider, despite the fact she initially supported Jeb Bush during the 2016 presidential primary.
Campaigns for McMaster and Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant didn’t immediately comment on the Trump-Bannon feud or any effect it may have on South Carolina’s contest.
Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. Read her work at https://apnews.com/search/meg%20kinnard.