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Citadel grad Nancy Mace wins primary to face Rep. Joe Cunningham in South Carolina

GOP is targeting Dem seat that Trump carried by 11 points

South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham will face state Rep. Nancy Mace in a race that is sure to attract significant spending.
South Carolina Rep. Joe Cunningham will face state Rep. Nancy Mace in a race that is sure to attract significant spending. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Nancy Mace, the first female graduate of The Citadel military college, won the Republican primary Tuesday to take on vulnerable South Carolina Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham. 

With 25 percent of precincts reporting, Mace, a state representative, was leading a four-person field with 59 percent of the vote when The Associated Press called the race for the coastal 1st District. Financial consultant Kathy Landing was in second with 26 percent and Bikers for Trump founder Chris Cox was in third with 9 percent. Brad Mole rounded out the field with 6 percent.

Mace’s win came after a week of trading jabs with Landing, who questioned her loyalty to President Donald Trump and attacked her as not sufficiently opposed to abortion. Mace advocated exceptions for rape and incest in a 2019 abortion ban, revealing in a state House floor speech that she had been raped at age 16. 

Sen. Lindsey Graham also cruised to victory over three Republican primary challengers. In November, he will face Jaime Harrison, the former chairman of the state Democratic Party, who ran unopposed in his primary.

Mace, who lost a primary challenge to Graham in 2014, had the endorsement of the anti-tax Club for Growth, which funneled $745,000 to her race through its independent expenditure arm and bundled contributions, club President David McIntosh told CQ Roll Call.  

The House Freedom Fund and Right Women PAC, both hard-line conservative groups that spend on Republican primaries, supported Landing, a municipal council member. 

Mace raised $1.3 million and had $560,000 on hand as of May 20. Cunningham, who did not have a primary challenger, raised $3.7 million and had $2.6 million in the bank, an early indication of the type of money that will likely flow into the race. 

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with House Republicans, immediately issued a statement congratulating Mace and condemning the incumbent.

“Joe Cunningham is a phony who pretends to be a moderate while rubber stamping the Democrats’ ever-increasingly dangerous and extreme agenda,” CLF President Dan Conston said.

Democrats are planning to put up a fierce fight to hold on to the Charleston-area seat that Cunningham flipped in 2018. His narrow 2-point victory made him the first Democrat to win the seat in 40 years.

Inside Elections with Nathan Gonzales rates the general election a Toss-up. Trump won the district by 11 points in 2016. 

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