Tag: SC 7th Congressional District

Where is Mayor Bethune?

Last week, Myrtle Beach Mayor Brenda Bethune missed two opportunities to answer questions from voters about why she should be reelected.
Instead, the Bethune campaign put out two emails extolling the virtues of spending local tax dollars on the construction of Interstate 73 and what she had done to address crime issues in the city.
Had Bethune taken the time to actually talk to voters, she may have learned that crime is still the number one issue concerning residents of Myrtle Beach and constructing I-73 ranks very far down on the list.
And Bethune’s message was countered by a story about Myrtle Beach being the third most dangerous city, per capita, in the nation. The story could be found on the website of Coastal Law, the firm with which Congressional candidate Russell Fry is associated.
Interestingly, Fry and Bethune both support the construction of I-73 in Horry County with local tax dollars.
Talking to and listening to voters is not high up on the list of things to do for most politicians today. They certainly want to be elected and reelected but they prefer to do it with slick mailers and emails as well as orchestrated messages in television and radio ads. These messages hit what politicians consider to be a few hot button issues for voters.
Then, if they fool enough voters to be elected or reelected, many of the politicians will go on to serve their own self-interests or those of the big donors to their campaigns. In some cases, such as Interstate 73, these politicians try to make it a hot button for voters with outlandish promises of what it will do for voters while it is really meant to serve the interest of their donors.
I-73 will permeate many election races through the Republican primaries in June 2022 and those politicians promoting it as a good idea are not working in the best interest of voters.
Fry joined Bethune and incumbent Congressman Tom Rice at Gov. Henry McMaster’s press conference about funding I-73 in Myrtle Beach last week.
Fry is running a rather schizophrenic campaign attempting to be a clone of Rice sometimes, then running away from Rice at other times when he (Fry) tries to wrap himself in the Donald Trump cloak.

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Ken Richardson For U.S. Congress

Richardson Officially Kicks Off Congressional Campaign to Enthusiastic Crowd

Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson Thursday night officially kicked off his campaign to unseat Tom Rice from the S. C. 7th Congressional seat at Radd Dew’s BBQ in Aynor.
Richardson announced he was a candidate early in the year and has spoken to 63 groups throughout the district, by his count, before his official kickoff. But, Thursday night saw Richardson host approximately 350 people, including a number of elected officials, to his official kickoff event. The crowd extended from the auditorium of the former school, in which the restaurant is located, out into the hallway behind the auditorium when Richardson spoke.
The people who attended the Richardson event were virtually all from west of the Intracoastal Waterway in Horry County although there was a sprinkling of attendees who drove from towns in the other seven counties in the district.
Virtually all of the attendees voted for Donald Trump in 2020, there was plenty of Trump attire in the crowd. Virtually all voted for Tom Rice in 2020. After hearing Richardson’s speech, I believe everybody at last night’s event will vote for Richardson in 2022.
The east-west divide, bounded by the waterway, among voters in Horry County and the 7th Congressional District in general was readily apparent in the crowd.
Those along the coast, where the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce is most influential, will support Rice in the upcoming primary. If it becomes apparent Rice is not regaining lost support among the voters, the Chamber crowd will probably opt for their number one Rice substitute Russell Fry.
The remainder of the district west of the waterway, where approximately 650,000 of the district’s approximately 750,000 citizens reside, is ripe for the taking by a candidate who speaks the people’s language.
In political terms, that language is one that respects individual liberty, expects limited government interference in their lives, wants to eliminate wasteful government spending on boondoggle projects and has strong ties to their local community.
Richardson asked two very interesting questions of the crowd. He asked for a show of hands of people who want their locally collected tax dollars to be spent on local roads and infrastructure. Virtually every hand in the crowd was raised.

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Russell Fry – Political Strategist or Political Opportunist

The political metamorphosis of Russell Fry in the last several weeks has been eye opening as Fry has gone from silence for six months on incumbent Rep. Tom Rice’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump to now attempting to be the biggest Rice critic and Trump supporter in the race for the Republican nomination for the 7th Congressional District seat.
As Fry has attempted to build his Trump message, he has styled himself as a strong conservative, small government, individual liberty candidate. However, during his political career to this point, Fry has been known as one of the “Chamber crowd” of politicians pushing the Interstate 73 message on voters.
Fry was one of the co-sponsors of a bill introduced into the legislature in 2019, which would have forced Horry County Government to donate all revenue from a countywide hospitality fee to the construction of an interstate highway rather than allowing county government to return the revenue collected within city limits to the cities and to spend the revenue collected in the unincorporated areas on other infrastructure and public safety needs to support the locals and tourists who pay the fee.
Sponsoring such a bill is hardly the action of a small government conservative.
Fry apparently got his start in local politics while a student in 2008 working as a consultant and providing other unspecified campaign services to former state Rep. Thad Viers. He again was paid for unspecified campaign services to Viers during the 2010 election cycle. Viers resigned his statehouse seat in 2012 and ultimately spent 18 months in federal prison for a money laundering conviction.
Shortly after graduating from law school and passing the bar, Fry formed the political consulting firm Crescent Communications, in early 2013, just in time to run the campaign of Mark Lazarus to fill the unexpired term of Tom Rice who resigned as Horry County Council chairman to enter Congress.
Lazarus won the special election, reelection in 2014 to a full term, then, lost in 2018. Fry and the other two members of the Crescent Communications team, Heather and Cam Crawford, ran all three campaigns for Lazarus, according to state ethics records.
Heather Crawford was already in the SC House of Representatives having won a special election to fill the unexpired term of Viers in 2012 and reelection in the 2012 general election for House District 68. Cam Crawford would soon win a special election for Horry County Council District 6 to fill the unexpired term of Bob Grabowski.
In 2015, Fry made it a trifecta of elected positions for the Crescent Communications team by winning a special election to fill the unexpired term of Nelson Hardwick in House District 106. All three received liberal donations from Chamber members, Chamber associated PACs and other special interests whose prime goal is the construction of I-73.

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Fry and Other 7th Congressional Candidates Looking to Score Political Gain from Afghan Suicide Bombing

By Paul Gable
Having spent 10 years on active duty in the U. S. Navy, I find the loss of life in the line of duty by any servicemember to be a time of tragedy and sorrow not something you try to use for personal gain.
Therefore, when 13 servicemembers lost their lives to a suicide bomber at the Kabul airport last week, I was appalled at how quickly four of the candidates for the South Carolina 7th Congressional District Republican nomination tried to score political points from these deaths.
Two, incumbent representative Tom Rice, who is still trying to get back into the good graces of Republican voters after voting to impeach former President Donald Trump, and Graham Allen, who lives across the state from the 7th Congressional District and remains a total unknown to most of the Republican voters in the district, called for President Joe Biden to immediately resign.
Political newcomer Jeanette Spurlock called for the immediate impeachment of Biden.
And state representative Russell Fry, who is trying mightily to gain the endorsement of Trump by any means possible called for Biden to appoint Trump as a special envoy to Afghanistan to oversee the continuing withdrawal of American servicemembers and civilians still in the country at the time.
All of these called for actions are outrageous in that none of them are going to happen. And these candidates know they won’t happen.
Why do it?
Because Allen and Spurlock, two of the outsiders in the race, hope their statements will resonate and gain them some traction and name recognition with the many pro-Trump voters in the 7th Congressional District.
Rice, after drawing continuing criticism from Republican voters for his vote to impeach Trump, is grasping for any available lifeline in an attempt to keep his chances for a sixth term in Congress viable.
Fry’s special envoy proposal is more calculated. After failing to criticize Rice for six months for Rice’s vote to impeach Trump, Fry decided to enter the race and contest the GOP primary election for the nomination for the 7th Congressional District.

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Is Fry Sandbagging Rice’s Reelection Effort Because of Special Interests?

(Above picture L-R: Tom Rice, Heather Crawford, Seth McKinney, Brenda Bethune, Mark Lazarus, Cam Crawford and Russell Fry)
Ever since Tom Rice cast his vote to impeach President Donald Trump last January, political talk around Horry County has been about whether Rice could survive a challenge to reelection next year.
Almost immediately nine challengers announced they would challenge Rice in next year’s June Republican Primary for the nomination for the SC 7th Congressional District seat. Eight of the original nine remain to date.
Tomorrow night, another challenger, Russell Fry, long expected to throw his hat in the ring, will hold his campaign kickoff event.
Fry’s entry into the race is probably a signal that at least some of Rice’s past supporters no longer believe he is electable.
Both Rice and Fry have drawn from the same base of support in the county during past elections – the Chamber crowd and associated PACs (the special interest crowd), local business owners and the ‘old guard’ members of the HCGOP.
A number of the names listed as sponsors for Rice’s September 14, 2021 Campaign Kickoff event at the Dunes Club also show up as donors to past Fry campaigns, according to filings with the South Carolina Ethics Commission.
The close ties between past Rice and Fry campaigns are best demonstrated by two of Fry’s initial donors in his first special election for the SC House District 106 seat in 2015. One of those donors is none other than Wrenzie Rice, wife of Tom Rice. The other is Doug Wendel, the man probably most responsible for Rice first running for the new 7th Congressional District seat in 2012.
Both Rice and Fry have been strong supporters of Chamber’s number one goal the Interstate 73 project, although neither has been able to bring any significant funds, federal or state respectively, to the project. Both attempted to pressure Horry County Council to provide funding from local hospitality fee collections to completely fund construction of the road to the county line (approximately $500 million additional funding).

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Wife’s Email Complicates Rice Reelection Chances

An email authored by Wrenzie Rice, wife of Congressman Tom Rice, further complicates Rice’s already tenuous chances for reelection next year.
Responding to an email from a supporter, but reportedly not a constituent, of Rice’s vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. Rice’s email was dated February 8, 2021, nearly one month after her husband’s vote to impeach and after her husband tried to explain away his vote to impeach the president as a vote of conscience and after Tom Rice was formally censured by the SCGOP.
According to a number of sources who received forwarded copies, the email was shared among Republican voters in South Carolina for several months eventually making its way to South Carolina GOP officials.
Nationfile.com broke a story about the email last week including a verbatim transcript of the contents with the name of the recipient redacted. According to that story, Nationalfile.com received a copy of the email from “a senior South Carolina Republican Party official.”
Wrenzie Rice used two references in the email that will not sit well with Republican voters in her husband’s South Carolina 7th Congressional District.
“Tom has not wavered one bit on his vote (to impeach), but the Trump cult runs strong,” Wrenzie Rice wrote. “Sometimes I wonder if this is how Hitler came to power…”
The use of the words “Trump cult” was ill advised. Using the definition of cult as a group that is defined by common interest in a particular personality, it brings to mind Jim Jones and his kool aid drinkers or Charles Manson and his group.
Is cult really the proper term to use to describe a substantial group of voters in the 7th District who have cast ballots for her husband in the past?
Tom Rice said he voted to impeach Trump because “what he (Trump) did in my mind is what dictators do.” Wrenzie Rice added the name “Hitler”, one of the most ruthless and despised dictators in modern history who, among other atrocities, initiated the Holocaust of Europe’s Jewish people and others Hitler described as sub-human.
Any reference linking Trump and Hitler does not play well with the legion of steadfast Trump supporters in the 7th Congressional District and nationwide.

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Dynamics Emerging in the 7th Congressional District Republican Race

Interesting dynamics are beginning to emerge in the race for next year’s Republican nomination in S. C. 7th Congressional District.
Second quarter campaign finance data shows incumbent Tom Rice leading in money raising with Graham Allen, Ken Richardson and Barbara Arthur rounding out the top four in that order.
Drilling down on those campaign donations, most of Rice’s contributions come from PAC donations routinely given to sitting Congressmen. While Allen shows $501,244 raised, an analysis could find only three donations totaling $1,000 from people living within the 7th Congressional District.
By contrast, Richardson’s $179,797 is virtually all from 7th Congressional District residents as is Arthur’s $52,666.
Richardson already has experience as a candidate having won a county wide race for the School Board chairmanship in Horry County which contains approximately 50% of the voters in the 7th Congressional District. Arthur has no previous political experience.
Rice is the incumbent but he hurt his reelection chances significantly by voting to impeach President Donald Trump in a January 2021 House vote.
Money is sometimes called ‘the mother’s milk of politics.’ However, if the amount of money raised and spent was the sole determinant in winning an election, Jaime Harrison would be a U. S. Senator today instead of Lindsey Graham.
Allen is the most interesting story as he is attempting to win the race as a carpetbagger. The term carpetbagger is defined as “a political candidate who seeks election in an area where they have no local connections.”
While Allen may know a few people in the district, he has no real connections to the area and most voters I have talked to don’t know much about him.
Allen has gained some notoriety as a regular host on Glenn Beck’s Blaze television and his ‘Rant Nation’ podcasts. Having recently moved to Anderson, SC, Allen meets the federal requirements to run for the 7th Congressional District seat.
Allen appears to be a member of a small group of candidates who seem to think their military service and a little notoriety on social media defines them as super-patriots while voicing positions for Second Amendment gun rights and against a ‘swamp’ full of perceived ‘Communists and Marxists’ in Washington are keys to winning Republican nominations for federal office.

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Where are State Legislators in District 7 Congressional Race?

One of the most interesting aspects of the challengers to Tom Rice for next year’s Republican primary nomination for the S.C. 7th Congressional District is the lack of state legislators currently in the contest.
Statehouse legislative experience is often used as a stepping stone to the U. S. Congress. For example, John Jenrette, Mark Sanford, Lindsey Graham and Henry Brown all served in the S. C. General Assembly before winning a seat in Congress. Rice served two years as county council chairman before winning election to the newly created 7th Congressional District in 2012.
Rep. William Bailey formed a committee in January 2021 to explore whether he should challenge incumbent Tom Rice in next year’s primary. Last week, Bailey announced he would seek reelection to his S. C. House seat rather than run in the primary for the U. S. House of Representatives, preferring to concentrate on his efforts to improve and widen SC 9 all the way to Interstate 81 to provide access from three interstates to the Grand Strand.
According to several sources in Columbia, three other members of the local legislative delegation are considering entering the race. They are Rep. Russell Fry, Rep. Heather Crawford and Sen. Stephen Goldfinch.
Rice’s vote to impeach then President Donald Trump on January 13, 2021 has encouraged at least 10 challengers to his reelection at this writing. All 10, in one form or another, have criticized Rice’s vote to impeach Trump. To date, not Fry, nor Crawford nor Goldfinch has criticized Rice’s vote to impeach.
A campaign for federal office brings a level of scrutiny much deeper into a candidate’s background, voting record and associations than is normal for local elections. What baggage might be holding back any of these three from entering the primary against Rice?
All three aligned themselves in the past with what can be called the good ole boy Republicans who are now out of favor in Horry County.
The new leadership at the Horry County GOP is currently conducting a forensic audit into the past four years of that organization’s finances, the period before the new leadership took office. In addition, a recent media report disclosed the HCGOP is under scrutiny by the S. C. Ethics Commission for failure to file quarterly disclosure reports since 2017.
The new president of the HCGOP was quoted in the story as saying right now the HCGOP couldn’t file disclosure reports because of a lack of good financial data for that period.

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One Year Until Republican Congressional Primary, Is Rice Toast?

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’s Failure to Deliver for his 7th Congressional District Constituents

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.
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