By Paul Gable
It has been six months since the day Tom Rice’s political career changed.
The January 6th disturbance at the U. S. Capitol building led to Rice’s ‘vote of conscience’ one week later to impeach former President Donald Trump.
Rice’s vote to impeach changed the political landscape in his South Carolina 7th Congressional District as Rice was immediately attacked by a large majority of his former supporters for casting that vote.
At the time, Rice’s campaign consultant Walter Whetsell downplayed the outcry against his five-time candidate as something that would fade in a couple of weeks. However, rather than fading in the six-month interim, the opposition to Rice has only grown.
At least 10 Republican challengers to Rice’s nomination for a sixth term as the Congressman from the South Carolina Seventh have already registered with the Federal Election Commission. In the eyes of most Republicans, the 7th Congressional District is being treated as an open seat rather than one with a five term Congressman in place with all the advantages of incumbency.
But, it is not only Rice’s vote to impeach Trump that will cause him trouble in the June 2022 Republican Primary, should he choose to run. He has no record of producing results for the citizens of the 7th Congressional District despite being in his fifth term as their representative.
When Rice first campaigned for the new 7th Congressional District seat in 2012, his two main issues were “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” and “Interstate 73”. He has failed on both issues.
Horry County, Rice’s home county and the location of a full 50% of the Republican voters throughout the district, has experienced no job growth attributable to Rice’s efforts in his four plus terms in Congress.
This comes as no real surprise. In his two years as chairman of Horry County Council before being elected to the 7th Congressional District seat, Rice promoted jobs as a major issue. Working with the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation, Rice’s two prime efforts for creating new jobs during those two years were “Avcraft” and “Project Blue”.
Avcraft was an aircraft completion and services company that had relocated to Horry County in 2004 with promises of 400-600 new jobs. After six years of failure to produce any new jobs in Horry County, Avcraft received one more stimulus package from the county with Rice leading and promoting the effort. Not only were no new jobs forthcoming, Avcraft finally bowed to the inevitable and filed for bankruptcy in 2014.
Project Blue was supposed to bring more than 600 new call center type jobs to Horry County. Questions arose about individuals involved in management of the proposed company and the project was put out of its misery in late 2012 without ever getting off the ground.
Those two job creation failures as county chairman were only a prelude to Rice’s inability to bring job creation projects to his 7th Congressional District.
In like manner, Rice has failed to provide any real boost for Interstate 73, a favorite project and potential payday for ‘good ole boy’ insiders in Horry County. Henry Brown was able to target approximately $86 million for the project during the 10 years he represented Horry County when it was part of his 1st Congressional District. The last of Brown’s money is now being spent on right of way purchases in counties other than Horry.
Rice has been able to obtain no federal funds for the road’s $2 billion construction price tag and was never able to get much support for the project from other members of South Carolina’s Congressional delegation much less from U. S. House members as a whole.
If Rice does decide to run for a sixth term in Congress, his vote to impeach Trump will only be one of a number of issues of his performance, or non-performance, with which challengers could have a field day during campaigning.