By Paul Gable
House District 106 representative Russell Fry officially kicked off his campaign for the SC 7th Congressional District Republican nomination at an event last night.
Fry has finally criticized incumbent representative Tom Rice for voting to impeach President Donald Trump in January. It only took Fry seven months to finally take this stand and after eight other candidates, none of whom were afraid to criticize Rice immediately after his vote to impeach, already entered the race.
His announcement of the campaign event included the phrase, “That’s why I’m announcing my campaign for Congress on Thursday, August 5—to guard the faith, families, and freedom of our fellow citizens.”
That statement is nothing but political rhetoric and sounds like a sound bite paraphrasing Superman fighting for ‘truth, justice and the American way’ in the old 1950’s television show of the same name.
The announcement also stated, “Your Congressman should do more than simply use his vote to look out for our interests here at home.”
I submit the voters want a Congressman whose primary goal is to use his vote to look out for the interests of the citizens here at home instead of special interests and those same voters are not interested in sound bites but rather in solid pledges from a candidate.
One pledge Fry did make was about I-73 and seemed to be aimed at those special interests who have had their way in Horry County for too long.
Fry was quoted as saying, “I think it’s a meritorious project for families in and around here,” he said. “It is a public safety issue. It is a jobs and economy issue. It’s a connectivity issue. There are a lot of benefits that come from interstate access that would that would be great not only for the Grand Strand, but the entire Pee Dee region.”
That statement is standard phrasing about I-73 that we have been subjected to since a 2005 study of the “economic impact” of the project was first completed. It is a necessary ingredient to any campaign that hopes to attract support from the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and its associated PACs as well as the special interests who expect to gain financially from any construction of I-73 within the county.
An expert who reviewed the 2011 study stated I-73 was an unneeded boondoggle “promoted on the basis of an economic impact study that vastly overstated the potential benefits. The expert referred to the more recent SCDOT re-evaluation of I-73 which concluded “the monetized benefits from the road would never cover the debt service on the bonds to build it.”
According to sources who attended the kickoff event, a crowd of approximately 100 people attended. However, somewhat disappointing no doubt, only two elected officials, county council member Dennis DiSabato and state representative Tim McGinnis were in attendance as well as three former officeholders, Mark Lazarus, Bob Childs and Randal Wallace.
Interestingly, Lazarus and his wife are listed as Gold Sponsors (donation $2,900 each) for the Tom Rice campaign kickoff event scheduled for September 14, 2021 at the Dunes Club.
According to those same sources, none of what can be considered the Chamber crowd and associated special interests attended.
In a related issue, a recently conducted poll of SC 7th Congressional District Republican voters had some interesting results. The poll included questions about Republican 7th Congressional District candidates who have raised at least $50,000 as of the July 15, 2021 filing with the Federal Election Commission and/or who have held elective office in the district.
In that poll, 22% of the voters responding said they would vote for Rice, 6% said they would vote for Ken Richardson, 15% were split among the other four candidates Mark McBride, Fry, Graham Allen and Barbara Arthur while 57% said they were undecided.
In a related question, 47% of the respondents said their candidate choice may be influenced by a Trump endorsement for one of the candidates while 53% said it would not.
While polls this early in a campaign season are subject to considerable change, it is interesting to note that Rice, now in his fifth consecutive term in office, only garnered 22% support. The other interesting result is that in a heavily Trump voting district, a Trump endorsement could influence less than half of those who voted for him in two general elections.