John Warren Won't Challenge McMaster in S.C. Governor's Race, Cites Bitcoin CEO Duties

John Warren, a businessman who pushed South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster all the way to a runoff in a 2018 Republican primary, announced Thursday on Twitter that he has no plans to seek public office in 2022, citing his responsibilities as CEO of the Bitcoin mining company he helped start last year.

Some had speculated that the 42-year-old millionaire may run again after his late entry into the 2018 race, which included spending $3 million of his own money, led him to finish second to McMaster in a result so close that it triggered a runoff election.

However, Warren did say the PAC he founded in 2020, South Carolina's Conservative Future, would be involved in fundraising and support of other races in the state, including several House and education-related races, but he didn't mention whether it would lend support to a candidate in the gubernatorial race.

In 2018, Warren accused McMaster of being part of an ineffective establishment and received endorsements from two other Republican candidates who had dropped out of the race.

The runoff election included a visit from former President Donald Trump in support of McMaster, who was the first statewide elected official to endorse Trump in 2016 when McMaster was still lieutenant governor of the state, and was eventually decided by a single-digit margin.

John Warren, Henry McMaster, South Carolina Governor
John Warren, who was South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster's opponent in a 2018 runoff, announced Thursday he has no plans to seek the office in 2022. Above, McMaster gives the crowd two thumbs up during a gubernatorial primary runoff election watch party at Spirit Communications Park on June 26, 2018, in Columbia, South Carolina. Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Last month, Warren told the AP that South Carolina's Conservative Future will "play a very, very large role in next year's elections, especially with superintendent of education and several House races," but he had "no comment" on the top of the ticket.

Thus far for this year's election, McMaster has raised more than $3.5 million and faces no GOP opponents raising significant money.

"We wish Mr. Warren well in his new endeavors and look forward to working with him to elect and reelect conservatives all across South Carolina," Mark Knoop, McMaster's campaign manager, told the Associated Press.

Democrats have set themselves up for an active primary, with former U.S. Representative Joe Cunningham, state Senator Mia McLeod and party activist Gary Votour among those filing to run. In a statement to the AP on Thursday, Cunningham accused McMaster of "working extremely hard to pander to the most extreme voices in our state in hopes of avoiding a primary challenge by John Warren" while noting the general election ahead.

On Thursday, former South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Matt Moore said Warren's move helped clear the way for McMaster to win a second full term, a victory that would allow the incumbent to make an unprecedented decade in office, given that he took over the final two years of Nikki Haley's second term.

"The South Carolina GOP is unified at the top of the ticket, and Democrats seem divided, between McLeod and Cunningham," Moore told the AP. "All signs point to an easy reelection for Governor McMaster."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.