By MEG KINNARD, Associated Press
COLUMBIA, SC (AP) – In one of the year’s most closely watched congressional Republican primaries, US Rep. Nancy Mace is set to meet two GOP challengers on the debate stage who are seeking to oust her from South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, arguing that she was disloyal to former President Donald Trump.
The Monday night matchup in Charleston is slated to be the only debate for Mace, Katie Arrington and Lynz Piper-Loomis ahead of the June 14 primary election.
With Piper-Loomis unable to attract significant fundraising, the race to this point has largely shaped up as a contest between the freshman Mace and Arrington, a former Defense Department cybersecurity expert who is making her second run for the seat. In 2018, Arrington notably knocked US Rep. Mark Sanford out of the GOP primary, going on to lose the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham, who became the first of his party in decades to flip a South Carolina House seat.
Mace, who ousted Cunningham in 2020 to become the first Republican woman elected to Congress from the state, has supported issues largely popular among conservatives, like transgender athlete bans, but has also backed bipartisan efforts, like the decriminalization of marijuana.
All three candidates have portrayed themselves as best-positioned to represent voters aligned with Trump. Both Arrington and Piper-Loomis have said they felt the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, a sentiment expressed by many of the candidates across the country to receive his backing.
That assertion has not been backed up by state electoral officials throughout the country that found the Trump campaign’s complaints systematically groundless and certified the election as fair and legitimate.
Mace, who had Trump’s backing in 2020, filmed a video of herself in front of Trump Tower, saying Arrington was “more than qualified” to lose the seat to Democrats for a second time and casting herself as best suited to represent the district’s fiscally conservative values. ”
She also reminded voters she was among Trump’s “earliest supporters” in 2016, when she worked for her campaign.
But Arrington has the official endorsement of Trump, who in November solicited candidates to challenge Mace after her vote to certify President Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election and frequent television appearances blaming Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection.
During a March South Carolina rally, Trump called Mace “a terrible person” who “has no idea what she’s doing.”
Both Mace and Arrington have been running TV ads in the district, with the incumbent pressing for the completion of the US-Mexico border wall – one of Trump’s signature projects – and touting support from former Gov. Nikki Haley, who also served as Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations.
In her first spot, Arrington boasted she is “Donald Trump’s choice” for the seat and defined Mace as among politicians “only there to serve themselves.”
Mace had amassed a campaign war chest of more than $ 3.8 million as of the end of March, nearly $ 1 million of which came in the weeks after Trump backed Arrington. In the first quarter, Arrington said she brought in around $ 814,000, $ 525,000 of which was in the form of a personal loan from herself.
The winner of the 1st District GOP contest will go on to face Democratic nominee Dr. Annie Andrews, who faces no primary opposition, in November.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.
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