By Paul Gable
Seven weeks remain until the Republican Primary to nominate a candidate for the SC 7th Congressional District.
At this point, the race basically breaks down to a contest between incumbent Tom Rice, Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson and state Rep. Russell Fry, the three top fundraisers in that order.
Rice has been targeted for defeat by former President Donald Trump because of Rice’s January 13, 2021 vote to impeach Trump over his involvement in the January 6, 2021 events at the U. S. Capitol. Rice recently was endorsed by former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, although how that helps in a South Carolina election is beyond my comprehension.
Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson is the only candidate in the race routinely speaking to groups of voters multiple times each week. Richardson is seeking the only endorsement that counts, that of the 7th District voters on June 14th.
Richardson has spent the last 14 months, since he announced for the race, meeting voters in a nearly continuous series of meetings throughout the 7th District.
Trump, in another of his recent virtually unexplainable endorsements, chose to back Fry at the behest of Gov. Henry McMaster and SCGOP Chairman Drew McKissick. Fry is basically an unknown outside of his small S. C. House district. But, Fry is a solid member of the RINO Republican establishment in the state. The Trump endorsement has failed to raise Fry in the polls or give any type of significant help in fundraising.
More to the point, Fry has been called Rice 2.0 by many Republican voters in the 7th District. Both are uninspiring speakers who rely on canned talking points, which is why voters have seen more television ads from the two rather than much actual face to face time. Both are tied to the Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce and the insistence on using local tax dollars to help fund the Interstate 73 project because they can’t get any from the federal or state governments.
Yet, with all the federal and state money thrown around during the Covid epidemic, neither Rice nor Fry was able to get more than a few million for the over $2 billion I-73 project.
Rice has been the Myrtle Beach cabal’s choice since he first ran for Horry County chairman and Fry is featured in a video on the landing page of the Grand Strand Business Alliance, the political sister organization of the Chamber, praising the work of the Chamber and the GSBA.
Both Rice and Fry are firmly tied to the cabal. They basically have the same group of voters supporting them east of the waterway and little appeal west of the waterway. Local tax dollars for I-73 plays well in Myrtle Beach and nowhere else.
Fry supporters have recently criticized Richardson for contributing $500,000 of his own money to his campaign as if this was some type of unethical tactic. Those same people, all of whom presumably support everything Trump does, must be forgetting that Donald Trump contributed $66 million of his own money, according to federal campaign disclosure documents, to his 2016 presidential campaign.
What the criticism of Richardson really exposes is Fry and his supporters are jealous Fry doesn’t have those types of assets to draw upon.
In the end, it won’t be how much money a candidate spends that will determine this race. It will be about how successfully the winning candidate connects with the voters, understands their issues and concerns and convinces them he or she has the best ideas to address those issues and concerns.
This race won’t be won by the message ‘Trump endorsed me, vote for me’ or ‘I’ve been in Congress 10 years, vote for me.’
This race won’t be won by the candidate who airs the most personal grievances or the candidate who can talk only about their individual life experience.
This race won’t be won by a self-absorbed candidate.
This race will be won by the candidate who best gets across the message to voters ‘What do you need, I’m your guy’.
From what I’ve seen of the campaigns so far, the only candidate taking that message to voters is Ken Richardson. That’s why I believe Ken Richardson is the only candidate who can beat Tom Rice in the primary!