The anti-tax Club for Growth on Wednesday announced that it is endorsing state Rep. Jeff Duncan (R) in South Carolina’s open 3rd district race, a seal of approval that should help distinguish him in a crowded GOP primary.
“Jeff Duncan is the kind of pro-growth, fiscal reformer who would help change Congress the moment he is sworn into office,” Club for Growth President Chris Chocola said in a release. “He has an outstanding record in the South Carolina General Assembly, consistently voting to lower taxes, limit government, and expand individual liberty.”
In its endorsement of Duncan, the Club for Growth also took a shot at one of his top primary rivals, fellow state Rep. Rex Rice.
“Rex Rice has supported raising taxes, including the cigarette tax,” Chocola said. “Jeff Duncan believes high taxes and big government are the problem, and Rex Rice thinks they are the solution.”
Rice, who met with the Club for Growth in an effort to garner an endorsement, said Wednesday that he was surprised the group is now targeting him and doesn’t think it understands his work in the state legislature.
Rice acknowledged his support for raising the cigarette tax.
“I felt like we needed to take the cigarette tax and put it in a trust account to help provide free-market health care for those people who could not afford health insurance,” he said.
But, in general, he said he has been a supporter of tax cuts in South Carolina.
“I have been a strong supporter of my constituents as far as reviewing policy down here and questioning policy,” Rice said. “I have worked very hard for my constituents to make sure that we don’t put any undue burdens on them.”
The western 3rd district is a Republican stronghold where the GOP primary will decide who will replace Rep. Gresham Barrett (R), who is running for governor. But the crowded contest probably won’t be decided until a June 22 runoff.
Rice and Duncan appear to be good bets to make the runoff.
Rice, who has received the backing of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R), has been the top fundraiser in the field — although he only had $54,000 in cash on hand as of Dec. 31. Duncan reported just $49,000 in cash on hand.
State Sen. Shane Massey (R) reported more than $100,000 in cash on hand, but that was due in large part to the more than $70,000 in personal loans that he made to his campaign.