By Paul Gable
It is just under seven months until Republican primary voters will nominate a candidate for the SC 7th Congressional District election next November.
The two candidates most closely tied to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, incumbent Tom Rice and state Rep. Russell Fry, are still searching for an image to project to voters in order to gain popularity and votes.
Rice is hampered by his January 13th vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. Trump support was strongest in 7th Congressional District among all the congressional districts in South Carolina. Rice won easy re-election, in the November 2020 general election, to his fifth term in office on Trump’s coattails.
Then Rice cast “THE VOTE” to side with Congressional Democrats in the House to file Articles of Impeachment against Trump.
As we all know, Trump was never going to be removed from office by an evenly split Senate (it takes a two-thirds vote from senators to impeach), especially considering Trump was due to leave office on January 20, 2021, and the Senate trial didn’t take place until after Trump was out of office.
What makes Rice’s vote to impeach even more incredible is that twice in the days before the actual voting on the Articles of Impeachment, Rice made public statements that he was NOT going to vote to impeach Trump. THEN HE DID!
One would have thought, after spending four full terms as a Congressman on Capitol Hill, Tommy would have absorbed, even if only by osmosis, enough political savvy to understand that his vote to impeach Trump would be a betrayal to the vast majority of people he represents in South Carolina’s 7th District.
Now Rice is trying to create a new image of himself as a faithful servant of Trump during the former president’s four years in office, citing a 94% voting record supporting Trump initiatives. Rice further claims he was defending the Constitution when he voted to impeach Trump, calling Trump a “very divisive man”, and claiming Trump’s actions (or inactions) incited a riot at the U. S. Capitol building on January 6, 2021.
What Rice is avoiding trying to explain is why twice, between the January 6th events and the January 13th vote to impeach, Tommy publicly stated he would not vote for impeachment, then did.
Rice claims a ‘new vision’ for the Republican Party that embraces everything Trump except Trump the person. He also claims he will run on his ‘record of accomplishments.’
What accomplishments? For most of his nine years in office, Rice was a resident of ‘The Swamp’ that Trump vowed to eliminate, going along to get along with his many non-conservative Republican colleagues and ultimately defecting to side with the Democrats on his vote to impeach.
Rice went to Washington claiming construction of Interstate 73 was his top priority, but has failed in nine years to get any federal money for construction. Rice touts his vote against the recent infrastructure legislation as proof of his conservative credentials even though Rice hopes to see money from that legislation go toward construction of I-73 instead of the much-needed repair and replacement of existing infrastructure in the state.
Rice likes to claim the creation of two thousand jobs from the construction of the Dillon Inland Port project even though recently deceased state Sen. Hugh Leatherman was much more instrumental in guiding that legislation through the S.C. General Assembly, the state ports authority and the state budget review board.
Fry spent eight months being silent on Rice’s impeachment vote until he decided to challenge Rice for the Republican nomination. Now Fry’s public statements talk about replacing “Trump-impeacher Tom Rice” with a self-designated ‘America First Conservative’ who is jumping all over school choice, anti-abortion, gun rights and ‘slamming the brakes on liberal agenda’ issues to prove his conservatism.
Why did it take Fry eight months to come around to this view?
Much of Fry’s donor base in past elections has been the same as Rice’s – the Chamber, its associated PACs and cronies, all of whom want to see the very liberal I-73 project constructed rather than improving and upgrading infrastructure already in place. Fry was present with Rice, Gov. Henry McMaster and Chamber CEO Karen Riordan at last month’s I-73 gala at the Chamber.
It is interesting to note that McMaster proposed a funding plan for I-73 construction between Myrtle Beach and connection to I-95 near Dillon that calls for $795 million in state funding for construction but not one penny of that amount for construction of I-73 in Horry County. Instead, McMaster, Rice, Fry, Riordan and the other pols who were at the event propose to have local governments in Horry County contribute $350 million of locally collected tax dollars to construction of the road in the county. It is difficult for one to conclude such a funding proposal works in the best interests of the taxpayers in Horry County, but the ‘conservative’, ‘liberal agenda fighting’ Fry supports it.
As for the other conservative talking points mentioned above, both Rice and Fry claim to be strong supporters.
It’s going to be a long seven months of listening to talking points that these two hope will gain votes while blurring their actual agenda. The real question voters in the 7th District have to answer for themselves is which candidate, among the current 11 announced, talks with you, not to you and which one listens to your concerns and needs and will work for you in Washington?