Ratings show South Carolina’s competitive races are limited to June primary
Mace, Rice, Timmons face challenges from within GOP
ANALYSIS — It’s been a long time since South Carolina was a hotbed of competitive House races. And the state is going to be even less competitive after the latest round of redistricting.
Just two districts have switched party hands in the Palmetto State in the last 25 years. Republican Mick Mulvaney defeated Democratic Rep. John Spratt in the 5th District in 2010. In 2018, Democrat Joe Cunningham took over the 1st District from Republicans by defeating Katie Arrington, who defeated Rep. Mark Sanford in the GOP primary. Then, in 2020, Republican Nancy Mace defeated Cunningham by 1.2 percentage points to take it back.
So it’s no surprise that Mace is vulnerable after her narrow victory. Only this year, the congresswoman is more at risk of losing in the primary rather than the general election.
Republicans in the state shifted the 1st from a seat President Donald Trump won by 6 points in 2020 into one he would have carried by 8 points (53 percent to 45 percent), according to Bradley Wascher of Inside Elections. In what looks like a good midterm cycle for Republicans, and considering Cunningham is running for governor rather than seeking a rematch, the race is rated Solid Republican.
Mace, however, has found herself in no man’s land in the Republican Party. She’s wavered a bit between being a Trump critic and a Trump ally and hasn’t found a home on either side of the spectrum. Mace even filmed a video outside Trump Tower in New York City to promote the areas where she agrees with the former president. The video was released a day after Trump endorsed Arrington — who four years ago defeated an incumbent in a primary in this district — in the June 14 primary.
Even if Arrington knocks off Mace, the GOP will start as favorites to hold the seat in this political environment. Democrats do have a credible candidate in likely nominee Annie Andrews, a pediatrician who raised $500,000 for the race through the end of last year.
Trump would have won Republican Rep. Joe Wilson’s 2nd District by 9 points and all of the other GOP-held seats by double digits. Democratic Rep. James E. Clyburn, the House majority whip, will likely hold the 6th District, which Joe Biden would have won by 28 points.
Rice, Timmons challenged
There’s also primary action in the 7th District, represented by GOP Rep. Tom Rice. He was a surprise vote to impeach Trump following the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, to the point where most reporters and observers initially thought it was a mistake. But it was intentional, and now the congressman has drawn primary challengers because of it.
Trump has endorsed state Rep. Russell Fry, who had $327,000 in his campaign account on Dec. 31. Rice had nearly $1.9 million. But Fry isn’t the only challenger to Rice in the race. Physician Garrett Barton and insurance agent Barbara Arthur are running and each had more than $100,000 in the bank at the end of the year. The goal for Rice’s critics should be to hold him under 50 percent on June 14 and finish the job in the June 28 runoff.
Trump would have won the 7th, which includes the cities of Florence and Myrtle Beach, by 19 points in 2020, so it’s not at risk of a Democratic takeover. Democrats don’t even have a serious candidate.
In the 4th District, GOP Rep. William R. Timmons IV did not vote to impeach Trump and objected to ratifying Biden’s certified victory, but he faces multiple primary challengers who claim the congressman isn’t aligned closely enough with the former president.
South Carolina gained a seat after the 2010 census, and then maintained its seven seats following the 2020 census. And Republicans are likely to retain their 6-to-1 edge in the House delegation for another decade. This year, Republicans need a net gain of five seats for the majority.
While South Carolina isn’t part of the fight for the House majority, it will be a key state to watch for the continued influence of Trump on the GOP and what happens to candidates who dare to criticize him or oppose him.
Races rated Solid Republican
- 1st District (Nancy Mace, R)
- 2nd District (Joe Wilson, R)
- 3rd District (Jeff Duncan, R)
- 4th District (William R. Timmons IV, R)
- 5th District (Ralph Norman, R)
- 7th District (Tom Rice, R)
Races rated Solid Democratic
- 6th District (James E. Clyburn, D)
Nathan L. Gonzales is an elections analyst for CQ Roll Call.