By Paul Gable
Grand Strand Daily has learned that Myrtle Beach business woman Debbie Harwell will announce later this afternoon that she is withdrawing as a candidate for the new 7th Congressional District seat.
Harwell, considered to be one of the strongest candidates in the field due to name recognition, organization and contacts throughout the new district, is withdrawing due to family medical issues.
Her husband, former S.C. Supreme Court Judge David Harwell (79), was hospitalized in December for several serious medical conditions.
“It is with great regret that I must remove my name from consideration as a candidate in the 7th Congressional District race,” said Harwell in a statement. “Over the Christmas holidays, my husband experienced some serious medical issues and my place is with him right now. This has been a hard decision for us, but after prayerful consideration and gaining medical advice, it is the right decision. I would not be able to give him the time and support he needs from me while also running an effective campaign for Congress.”
“Within the last four months, I have been more than appreciative of the support I have received from old friends and I have made many, many new friends that will last a lifetime and for that I have been truly blessed,” Harwell said.
Harwell said she will be studying the remaining candidates in the 7th District race and will throw her support behind the one she believes will do the best job for Horry County and the district.
Donald Smith, Harwell’s campaign consultant, said the decision is a difficult one because Harwell was exceeding early projections in fundraising and grassroots supporters, but it is the only one for her to make.
“From the first, Debbie let me know her decisions are based first on faith, second on family and last on self,” said Smith. “I know this is the right decision for her. Of course, I am disappointed because I believe we had the winning candidate, but I support her decision completely.”
“Debbie wants the best for the Pee Dee and will add her support and influence to the candidate she decides is the best to represent our district,” Smith concluded.
Harwell becomes the second Republican candidate to leave the race. Thad Viers announced last week he would not be running after his arrest on harassment charges against a former girlfriend.
Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice has also had two difficult weeks as his attempts to promote economic development in the county foundered on the rocks of new economic development incentives and significantly reduced rent to historically underperforming AvCraft. Negative response from Horry County residents to the AvCraft news gives Rice a new hurdle to overcome in his campaign.