By Paul Gable
Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson hit the national news spotlight recently when the New York Times ran an article mentioning Richardson as a potential challenger to Rice in the upcoming June 2022 Republican Primary for Rice’s SC 7th Congressional District seat.
Richardson said he was surprised at getting a call from the New York Times reporter. “When my phone rang and it was the New York Times on the other end wanting to talk about me challenging Rice for Congress I was very surprised,” said Richardson.
Richardson said his entire focus right now is on getting Horry County students safely back into the classroom five days a week.
Toward that goal, the school district is in the final stages of surrounding each student desk with Plexiglas shields. Richardson said meetings are ongoing with administrators, cafeteria staff and maintenance staff on what additional steps will be required to provide a safe learning environment when the district shifts to full-time, in-school classes.
“My number one priority right now is getting the kids back in school full-time,” Richardson said.
However, making a future run at Rice’s seat is not out of the question for Richardson.
“When the 7th district was first created in 2012, I considered running for the seat then,” Richardson said. “But, I was involved in negotiations to sell my car dealership (Fowler Motors) at the time and I didn’t feel I could give the attention necessary to run a Congressional race at the same time.”
Richardson said he ran for the position of school board chairman because there were things he wanted to accomplish for the students of Horry County, but the thought of running for Congress has never completely left his mind.
In June 2019, Richardson released a statement that Rice needed to do more to help local schools impacted by hurricanes.
“U.S. Representative Tom Rice is in the key position to deliver critical disaster aid targeted for our schools by getting Congress to enact zero interest tax credit bonds for K-12 school construction in disaster impacted areas,” Richardson said in the statement.
Richardson said Rice had introduced legislation to help individuals and families impacted by hurricanes but the district needed him to step up with help for schools so they could be constructed to stand up to the devastating effects of hurricanes.
Richardson said no such legislation was forthcoming from Rice. However, Rice did request Gov. Henry McMaster amend the state’s request for federal disaster relief to include funding to construct Interstate 73, a pet project of Rice’s since he was first elected to Congress in 2012, but one with which he has unsuccessfully struggled to obtain federal funding for.
“I went to Congressman Rice for money for education needs and got no help,” Richardson said. “There are a lot more needs in his district than I-73.”
The uproar within the Republican Party against Rice and the other nine Republican members of Congress who voted with the Democrats to impeach President Donald Trump a second time is ongoing.
Locally Rice has been condemned for voting to impeach Trump by the Horry County Chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus, which called for his immediate resignation. The Florence County Republican Party voted to censure Rice. The South Strand Republican Club also condemned Rice’s vote and several sources reported the Horry County Republican Party will soon vote to censure Rice. Rice’s vote to impeach was condemned in a statement by South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick.
As Richardson told the New York Times, Horry County is Trump country. “If there’s ever been a Trump country, we live in Trump country.” Richardson said.
Horry County voted overwhelmingly for Trump in the 2016 Republican Presidential Primary giving him 26,445 votes out of a total of 53,775 votes cast in the county for the six primary contenders. In the 2020 general election for president, Trump outdistanced Democrat Joe Biden by 71% to 28%. Trump received 56% of the votes cast statewide.
Richardson said he has consistently received calls from county voters urging him to run against Rice in the 2022 Republican Primary. He said after Horry County students are back in schools five days a week, he will take time to consider challenging Rice.
“Running for Congress has always been in the back of my mind,” said Richardson. “One consideration is whether I want to run for school board chairman or challenge Rice for the 7th Congressional District seat. People mention he has a campaign war chest with $1.2 million in it already, but I have a war chest of my own.”