By Paul Gable
Former President Donald Trump left no doubt over the weekend that he will be a factor in the 2022 off year elections for the U.S House of Representatives and Senate.
Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Sunday, the former president called out the names of all 10 Republican representatives, including the 7th Congressional District’s Tom Rice, and seven Republican senators who voted for his impeachment. “Get rid of them all,” Trump said.
Trump indicated he will oppose all 17 Republicans who voted against him when they come up for reelection and back candidates who subscribe to his “Make America Great Again” agenda.
Incumbency normally works to a candidate’s advantage. However, in the case of Rice and the others who voted to impeach Trump, it will lose its significance.
Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson already has a campaign in place to challenge Rice in the 2022 Republican Primary. He has opened a campaign account, filed with the Federal Election Commission hired campaign staff and is making the rounds of Republican events in the district to introduce his candidacy.
Richardson stated publicly that he would not have voted to impeach the former president when he announced his campaign opening. Political insiders who know Richardson know he was one of the first in the area to support Trump’s candidacy in 2016 and Richardson’s wife traveled the southeast supporting and raising money for Trump’s 2020 reelection bid. Both are firmly in step with the MAGA movement.
Two state legislators, Rep. Russell Fry and Rep. William Bailey have indicated they are studying whether to get into the primary race. Neither has taken a position on Rice’s vote on the impeachment question.
Since announcing they were exploring the idea of running in the 7th Congressional District Republican Primary, both Fry and Bailey have been relatively quiet.
However, after Trump’s speech at CPAC, Fry posted a picture of he and Trump together, apparently attempting to make local voters think he is close to the former president. What makes this so silly is Fry took advantage of an individual photo op but still has not denounced Rice’s betrayal vote.
Fry does understand photo ops somewhat being partnered in a campaign consulting firm with Rep. Heather Ammons Crawford and county council member Cam Crawford. Their modus operandi is photo ops and endorsements instead of issues.
However, this consulting firm managed to be victimized by the biggest election upset in Horry County history when their candidate incumbent Mark Lazarus lost to newcomer Johnny Gardner in the 2018 county council chairman race.
Of the three, Richardson is the only one who has won a county wide election standing before the county’s approximately 250,000 registered voters when he won the school board chairman race in 2018. Fry and Bailey have only run in their respective house districts facing approximately 30,000 voters each.
It is unknown at this time whether former President Trump will endorse any candidate for the 7th Congressional District nomination. However, it is a solid bet he will come out in strong opposition to incumbent Rice.