President Donald Trump has given his endorsement to Katie Arrington over incumbent Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) in South Carolina’s first congressional district, encompassing Charleston and surrounding areas.
In a statement, Trump said that Arrington, a former Republican nominee in the district, should be chosen to replace one-term congresswoman Mace.
“Katie Arrington is running against an absolutely terrible candidate, Congresswoman Nancy Mace, whose remarks and attitude have been devastating for her community, and not at all representative of the Republican Party to which she has been very disloyal,” Trump wrote. “Katie Arrington, on the other hand, is liked and respected and a true Republican.”
In 2018, Arrington defeated incumbent congressman and former Governor Mark Sanford for the GOP nomination. During that campaign, Arrington was badly injured in a serious car accident, which Trump says was in part responsible for her narrow defeat by Democrat Joe Cunningham.
“[Arrington’s] automobile accident a number of years ago was devastating, and made it very difficult for her to campaign after having won the primary against another terrible candidate, ‘Mr. Argentina,'” Trump said in a reference to Sanford’s 2009 disappearance, when he admitted he had gone to Argentina to have an affair with a Buenos Aires woman.
“Katie is strong on the Military, our great Vets, Law Enforcement, the Border, and will fight very hard for our under-siege Second Amendment and Lower Taxes. Katie is a wonderful woman and has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump concluded.
Mace has been criticized for her attitude toward the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally at the U.S. Capitol, which she has blamed on Trump.
Just days after the rally, Mace told NBC’s Meet the Press that Republicans should “hold [Trump] accountable” for having “put all our lives at risk.”
In 2018, after her surprise victory over Sanford, Arrington was narrowly defeated by Democrat challenger Joe Cunningham, who won the race by a 1.4 point margin, or around 4,000 votes.
The victory was a surprising one for Democrats, who had not won a House seat in the district since 1978.
However, any optimism by Democrats that the district may be turning blue was dashed in 2020, when Mace challenged Cunningham and defeated him by a 1.3 point margin.
While Trump’s endorsement is a much sought-after one for many Republicans, Mace received her own celebrity endorsement recently, winning former S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s support.
Haley, who still holds significant sway for many South Carolinians, endorsed Mace in a Feb. 7 tweet.
“Nancy Mace is a fighter who stands up to Biden’s reckless spending, punches back against lawless lockdowns and mandates, & is strong on border security,” Haley wrote.
Haley called Mace “the conservative voice the Lowcountry needs in Washington.”
“That’s why I’m proud to endorse my congresswoman, [Nancy Mace], for reelection.”
Following Trump’s endorsement of Arrington, Mace responded on Twitter, saying “Bring. It. On.”
In a video announcing her intention to challenge Mace, Arrington said that the American Founders envisioned lawmakers who were not driven by “personal gain, celebrity status, or self-enrichment.”
“Let’s be honest: Nancy Mace is a sellout,” Arrington said. “She sold out the Lowcountry. She sold out President Trump.
“She is more interested in becoming a mainstream media celebrity than fighting for the people she’s supposed to represent,” Arrington continued, referencing a poorly-received photo of Mace with Carol Baskins from the show “Tiger King.”
Arrington also criticized Mace’s attempts to legalize marijuana, which has been a key emphasis for Mace during the 117th Congress.
The attitudes of South Carolinians toward marijuana, which is entirely illegal in S.C., are somewhat ambivalent.
According to polling by the Marijuana Policy Project, 75 percent of South Carolinians in the Lowcountry, where Mace’s district is situated, support the legalization of doctor-prescribed medical marijuana.
However, Trafalgar research showed that 57.7 percent of South Carolinians opposed the legalization of recreational marijuana, though this poll was not broken down by region, leaving it unclear where more liberal Lowcountry residents stand on the issue.
Still, Mace has defended the effort in several posts on Twitter.
In a Jan. 12 post on Twitter, Mace argued, “Congress must move forward in a way that ensures a free, fair and open marketplace with respect to states. Prohibition costs roughly $500 million every five years.”
Given the relative unpopularity of marijuana among South Carolinians, these efforts are likely to be one of Arrington’s key attack points as the campaign progresses.
Arrington has attempted to contrast herself with Mace as a Trump-adjacent, America First conservative. But this could be a dangerous strategy in the district, which did not vote for Trump in 2016 or 2020, despite the state’s otherwise-red bent.
In 2016, Hillary Clinton won 50.6 percent of the vote in the district compared to 42.8 percent for Trump. Biden solidified that lead in 2020, winning 55.5 percent of the district’s vote to Trump’s 42.6 percent.
Nevertheless, despite the district’s generally blue-leanings, it has consistently voted for Republicans almost without fail for over four decades, aside from Cunningham’s slim victory in 2018. While S.C. district 1 voters are not greatly enthusiastic about Trump, they nearly elected Arrington in 2018, when she portrayed herself as an equally-staunch Trump ally.
The 2018 midterms also saw a wave of blue victories in House battles across the nation, which usually go well for the out-of-White House party. In November, Republicans are expected to take the House majority, as Democrats now find themselves in the White House and on the defensive.
This significantly bolsters prospects for either Mace or Arrington, but both will likely face a tough primary battle amid competing high-value endorsements.