By Paul Gable
A month ago, GSD published an article which said newly elected Congressman Russell Fry will have to make a sticky choice between being a Donald Trump MAGA Republican in Washington or joining the Swamp Republicans in Congress with their rising tide of dissatisfaction about Trump.
Fry only won the nomination for the seat after his SCGOP cohorts like Gov. Henry McMaster, SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick and some Trump advisers convinced Trump to endorse Fry before ever actually meeting him. Fry defeated all comers, including incumbent Tom Rice, in the primary and went on to win the general election despite never really telling Seventh Congressional District voters how he would represent them.
Fry never voiced his thoughts on whether Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election and had the victory stolen from him. Fry only started to criticize incumbent Rep. Tom Rice, for voting to impeach Trump, after he decided to challenge Rice in the Congressional race. To this day, that one vote to impeach is the only thing that separates Fry and Rice. They are both members of ‘The Swamp’.
Fry used the term ‘common sense conservative’ as his campaign moniker. However, his record in the S. C. House of Representatives does not reflect a politician who believes in small, lean government with strict oversight of government spending, despite what words may come out of his mouth.
The American Conservative Union rated Fry’s overall conservative voting record in the South Carolina House of Representatives on all issues from 2015 -2020 at 57.41%.
More importantly, Fry’s voting record on “Taxes, Budget and Spending” was listed among his weakest issues (those with the lowest conservative voting record), according to the American Conservative Union.
Fry may have already given an indication of which side he will join during a recent interview with a local media outlet. Fry said he believed Interstate 73 was “incredibly important” for the area and beach renourishment was a major need. Both are top issues for the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and were top issues for Rice while he was in Congress.
Fry is a staunch member of ‘The Swamp’ in Horry County. He is totally tied to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and its sister political arm, the Grand Strand Business Alliance. Fry appears on the GSBA website in a video praising the Chamber and its initiatives, such as Interstate 73.
Fry mentioned he requested to be a member of the House Transportation Committee during the two -week orientation for incoming House freshmen he just completed. Why do I hear I-73 in that committee assignment request?
Fry appeared on the same stage as Rice last October when Gov. Henry McMaster came to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to announce he wanted $300 million from the state’s share of Covid relief funds to go to build six miles of I-73 in Dillon County.
Fry has been a strong supporter of the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce advocacy of having local governments in Horry County help fund construction of the Interstate 73 project.
Three years ago, Horry County Council cancelled a contract with the South Carolina Department of Transportation that would have committed the county to a minimum annual transfer of at least $25 million tax dollars from local hospitality tax collections to construction of I-73.
Immediately after the contract was cancelled, Fry joined Rep. Heather Crawford and former Rep. Alan Clemmons as co-sponsors of a bill that would have required Horry County to transfer approximately $41 million per year to Interstate 73 construction. The proposed bill was an excellent example of government overreach where, had it passed, the state would have dictated to the county it must spend locally collected tax revenue on a state project rather than local ones.
It’s important to note here that another of Fry’s important local issues mentioned in the interview was flood resiliency. Those local tax dollars Fry wanted spent on I-73 are now being used for local road improvements to mitigate flooding in the future.
Limiting government taxation and spending are issues Fry called important. However, again his record in the S. C. House contradicts this statement. Just a few years ago, Fry voted in favor of the largest gasoline tax increase in state history and followed that vote up with voting to override Gov. Henry McMaster’s veto of the gasoline tax increase legislation. The gasoline tax is among those taxes that hit average working families the hardest.
Fry said government spending was a problem for the economy. He stated ‘the government created a lot of money and handed it out all over the place’ in the last several years causing the current inflation in the country,
What Fry didn’t mention was part of the ‘handing out’ was the Paycheck Protection Program which the law firm he was associated with was quick to take advantage of.
PPP originated during the Trump administration as a means of helping small business maintain employment during the early stages of the Covid epidemic. It was billed as a ‘loan program’ to small business, but quickly became a huge federal government giveaway program because of few requirements to qualify for a loan and a very liberal loan forgiveness program. The program was funded by federal government borrowing.
The law firm with which Fry is associated applied for and received two ‘loans’ of approximately $65,000 each. Both loans were ultimately forgiven, according to federal PPP records. In other words, Fry and his firm were perfectly happy to grab that ‘free’ federal government money when it was available.
There is no question that without the endorsement from Trump, Fry would not have been a factor in the Republican Primary for the 7th Congressional District nomination. He would certainly not be going to Congress. He owes his seat to the Trump endorsement and the MAGA Republican voters influenced by that endorsement.
If they think they elected a MAGA Republican just because Trump endorsed Fry, those voters are in for a shock. Now that he is elected, Fry appears to be turning back to his “Swamp” ways, which were always part of his political history.
Two years from now, after voters have a chance to study his actions and votes in Congress, Fry’s reelection may be much more difficult than his initial election. Fry’s words and past legislative history indicate he will be Rice 2.0 in Congress.