By Paul Gable
By voting to impeach President Donald Trump on Wednesday, South Carolina 7th Congressional District Representative Tom Rice effectively announced his retirement from Congress.
Representing one of the most solidly pro-Trump districts in the nation, Rice’s vote drew nearly 3,000 Facebook comments in a matter of a few hours after his vote. The overwhelming majority of those comments were telling Rice he would never get their vote again and he should immediately retire.
There has always been a debate about whether a Congressman’s vote should represent the wishes of his constituents or that by electing him, his constituents effectively give him permission to vote as he determines proper.
Most congressmen do some of both, but occasionally an issue arises that most congressmen understand that they must vote the wishes of their constituents or suffer the consequences. The question of whether or not to impeach the president was just such an issue in the 7th Congressional District and Rice either didn’t understand the mood of his constituents or just didn’t care.
It’s interesting to note that local officeholders who rush to get Rice’s endorsement at election time and always show up for a photo op with him when he is in town, Luke Rankin, Heather Ammons Crawford, Cam Crawford, Russel Fry and newly elected Case Brittain quickly come to mind, have offered no defense of Rice on this issue.
They understand discretion is the better part of valor on this issue and defending Rice’s vote would only serve to put their future election prospects in peril.
While the overwhelming number of Republican voters in Horry County, who also happen to be the overwhelming number of voters in the county, condemned Rice’s vote, he did garner thanks from the county Democrats.
A press release by the Horry County Democratic Party said in part, “Jan. 13, 2021 — The Horry County Democratic Party today thanked Rep. Tom Rice (R-SC-7) for joining nine other Republicans and every Democrat in the House of Representatives to impeach President Donald Trump.”
In the short time since the impeachment vote, various Republican officeholders have been contacted by outraged Republican voters about opposing Rice in the 2022 primary should Rice decide to run.
One name, that of Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson, has been mentioned in various quarters in posts opposing Rice. I can’t predict what may happen in two years, but I would venture if the Republican primary for the congressional seat was held tomorrow, Richardson would trounce Rice at the polls.
Rice may regret never getting any funding to build Interstate 73. He could have used it as an escape route from the county in the future.