One Year Until Republican Congressional Primary, Is Rice Toast?

By Paul Gable

One year from today, June 14, 2022, voters will go to the polls for primary elections to nominate candidates for the November 2022 general election.

The most closely watched race will be the Republican primary for the S. C. 7th Congressional District. Will five term incumbent Tom Rice survive his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump and win the Republican nomination?

Incumbents have a few advantages over challengers especially name recognition and the ability to raise money from the many PACs around the country looking to gain access to legislators.

However, since Rice’s vote to impeach former President Trump, the 7th Congressional District is being treated like an open seat by challengers. Ten challengers to Rice had filed with the Federal Election Commission as of the March 31, 2021 required filing date. When the June 30, 2021 filing is complete, we may see a couple more challengers have emerged.

The same March 31st filings show Rice raised $404,000 for his campaign chest, nearly all from out of state PACs. Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson raised $154,000 generally from donors within the 7th District. The other nine Republican candidates raised just over $3,000 total among them.

It is estimated a campaign chest of at least $2 million will be needed to fund a serious challenge to Rice. Only Richardson, among the challengers, is on track to raise that kind of money to this point.

But it takes more than money to win elections. A look back at a little history of Horry County and the former S.C. 6th Congressional District, most of which now comprises the 7th Congressional District, may help to put the 2022 primary in perspective.

Former Congressman John Jenrette, the only other person than Rice elected to Congress from Horry County, said when he beat 17 term Congressman John McMillan in the Democratic primary of 1972 (back in the days when nearly everyone in South Carolina was a Democrat), “McMillan had the money but I had the people.”

McMillan was an old style, Jim Crow Southern Democrat who failed to connect with the many new voters brought into the electorate since 1964. Jenrette served four terms in the S. C. House as an at-large representative from Horry County. Jenrette had already connected with those new voters and many of the older ones who also voted for McMillan.

Rice, on the other hand, is considered a traitor by many of those who previously voted for him because of his vote to impeach Trump. Rice reported $404,731.33 raised as of March 31, 2021.

How do the 10 Republican challengers to Rice, registered with the FEC, currently connect with 7th District voters? A little background on each from what could be found in searches:

Graham Allen only recently moved to South Carolina and lives in the Upstate with no apparent intentions to move into the 7th District, according to media reports. (You only have to live in the state, not the district, to represent a district in the U.S. House of Representatives) He is called a “media influencer” by virtue of being a Turning Point USA contributor and occasional appearances on Fox News and is an Army veteran. The voters in the 7th District like personal politics where their representative lives and has worked among them thereby understanding their particular concerns about government and its goals. It is tough to see how media sound bites can substitute with the voters. Allen has no elective office experience. Allen reported $0 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Steve Reichert, according to his website, is a 12-year Marine veteran who was medically discharged after being wounded. He claims to have lived in the Carolinas since joining the Marines although it is unclear where. In the 10 years since being discharged, he has worked with several defense contractors. However, Reichert’s contact and familiarity with the people of the 7th District he wants to represent in Congress is extremely tentative at best although his donation page claims he wants to save them from socialism. Reichert has no elective office experience. Reichert report $0 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Tom Dunn lives in the 7th District and claims to be a ‘ferocious conservative lion unafraid to stand up to evil socialists.’ Dunn has no elective office experience. Dunn reported $3,050 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Barbara Arthur lives in the 7th District and has been out campaigning at various events throughout the district. She also is a fighter against socialism, according to her website. Arthur has no elective office experience. Arthur reported $68.20 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Jeanette Spurlock lives in the 7th District. Her website talks about her strong family connections and does invite voters to contact her to discuss problems in their neighborhoods. Spurlock has no experience in elective office. Spurlock reported $48.92 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Justin Davison lives in the 7th District. His Facebook page states he is an avid supporter of conservative principles but admits to no experience in politics. He says he will be an advocate for the people of the 7th District in Washington. Davison reported $0 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Brandon Cooper lives in the 7th District. His website claims he believes voters are fed up with out of touch politicians and he believes voters in the 7th District should be represented by ‘one of their own.’ Cooper has no experience in elective office. Cooper reported $0 raised as of March 31, 2021.

William Bailey currently represents North Myrtle Beach in the S. C. House. He has concentrated on flooding issues and expansion of SC 9 to provide a connection to both Interstate 95 and Interstate 85. Bailey reported $0 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Mark McBride is a former two-term mayor of Myrtle Beach, last elected in 2001. He has been outspoken with issues facing the citizens of Myrtle Beach since leaving office. McBride reported $0 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Ken Richardson is the current Chairman of the Horry County Board of Education. He is the only candidate among the challengers who has won a countywide election. In 2018, Richardson garnered more total votes for school board chairman from Horry County voters than Rice did in his Congressional race. (Horry County Republicans make up 50% of the total Republican voters in the 7th District.

To date, Richardson is the only challenger who has demonstrated the ability to raise money for his candidacy. He has been actively campaigning throughout the 7th District since announcing his candidacy and is the only challenger who said he was going to challenge Rice for the Congressional seat prior to the Rice vote to impeach. Richardson did, however, advance his timetable to run for Congress by two years after the Rice vote. Richardson reported $154,786.81 raised as of March 31, 2021.

Nothing is certain in politics in the 21st Century. It is not a requirement to have previously served in elective office to run for Congress, but some experience in a hard fought campaign or two does help a candidate. Experience with what is required once holding office is also helpful.

This synopsis is a quick look at the candidates for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District one year out. No doubt there will be changes over the coming year and I personally doubt that all 10 of the challengers listed above will actually file next March to be on the primary ballot in June 2022. It’s going to take more than sound bites and labels to win this election. It’s going to take real connection with those you are asking to vote for you.

The next filing with the FEC is due June 30, 2021. It will be interesting to see how the challengers are progressing in raising money for their campaigns and how Rice is doing with money raising.

There will be periodic updates on the race in Grand Strand Daily throughout the upcoming 12 months until primary day.

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