By Paul Gable
Four and one-half months to go until Republican Primary voting for the SC 7th Congressional District nomination and things are starting to heat up.
Ken Richardson, Horry County School Board Chairman and Congressional challenger to incumbent Tom Rice, made a big splash this week with the Make America Great Again supporters in an op-ed Richardson wrote challenging the results of the 2020 presidential election and support for true election integrity. Richardson’s article was a featured piece on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast.
Because of his fundraising, continuous trips to speak throughout the 7th District and growing national attention, Richardson’s candidate profile continues to grow.
Richardson only began serious fundraising activities last week. As he said last week, if the race is going to be decided by money alone, he would just write a check. He put his money where his mouth is by loaning $500,000 to his campaign fund. In addition, Richardson raised approximately $200,000 last year and spent approximately $150,000 of that amount on various campaign expenses.
His campaign account currently boasts $557,030.08 with checks beginning to roll in from the over $200,000 in donation pledges Richardson solicited in the last two weeks.
Graham Allen, a conservative activist and media personality, who never lived in the 7th Congressional District, decided to suspend his campaign and concentrate on his nationwide appeal as a media personality.
Allen said he is currently working on forthcoming projects and issue advocacy with his media company and will continue to spread “a message of freedom, personal liberty and America First conservatism across the country…”
In his statement suspending his campaign, Allen said, “…in recognition of the fact that there is now a viable candidate who is worthy of President Trump’s support and who voters trust, I am announcing that I am immediately suspending my campaign for Congress.,.”
Is it a safe assumption Allen was referring to Richardson in his description of a viable candidate worthy of Trump’s support without actually naming him?
Richardson announced in early February 2021 he was challenging Rice for the Republican nomination, saying Rice’s vote to impeach President Donald Trump was the final factor in Richardson’s decision to enter the 2022 Congressional race.
Richardson is a Horry County native and longtime successful businessman with extensive personal contacts throughout the county. Richardson, his wife of 43 years Donna, his children and grandchildren are all residents of Horry County
As the current school board chairman, Richardson has already won a countywide election, garnering over 70% of the vote with three people on the ballot. Voters in Horry County make up over 50% of the total voting population in the 7th Congressional District. Additionally, Richardson, through his speaking engagements over the past 12 months, has extended his name recognition and campaign message beyond Horry County borders into the other areas included in the district.
The only other elected official currently announced as a candidate is state Rep. Russell Fry. Fry is in his mid-30’s, is a practicing attorney and has served six years as the representative for SC House District 106. Fry represents and has been on the ballot for approximately one-seventh of the voters in Horry County. Put another way, Fry represents approximately 14% of the voters Richardson represents.
Fry’s name recognition is nowhere near as extensive in the 7th District as Richardson’s and his campaign chest is smaller. Most importantly, Fry took eight months before he decided to run for the Republican Congressional nomination and before he made any statement criticizing Rice’s vote to impeach President Trump.
Fry not only has less name recognition and money than Richardson, but his conservative credentials are questionable and he has yet to offer a statement on election integrity and the validity of the 2020 presidential election results.
Another reason it appears Allen was speaking of Richardson in his mention of a “viable candidate who is worthy of Trump’s support and who voters trust” is that most voters in the 7th District think of Fry as an establishment insider and a clone of Tom Rice.
And the special SC Senate election in Florence, part of the 7th Congressional District, last Tuesday demonstrated how strong the determination of the voters in the 7th Congressional District is to get rid of the current establishment politicians.
Look at the similarities.
Jay Jordan, 41, a six-year SC House member and loser in the Florence election, was the career politician looking to move up with the death of Sen. Hugh Leatherman. Fry, 36, a six-year SC House member, is the career politician looking to move up from Rice’s apparent political death.
Mike Reichenbach, 50, a successful Florence businessman and political newcomer, defeated Jordan the career politician. Ken Richardson, 66, a successful Horry County businessman and relative newcomer to politics has consistently polled ahead of Fry, the career politician, in the 7th Congressional District.