Republican who ousted Sanford making another run at SC seat
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Katie Arrington — the South Carolina Republican who ousted Rep. Mark Sanford in a 2018 GOP primary, only to lose in the general election — is now mounting a primary challenge to the seat’s current occupant, saying Tuesday she’s hopeful she’ll again secure backing from Donald Trump.
She said she “made mistakes” in her prior run but is confident she will win this time.
“I don’t make the same mistake twice,” Arrington told The Associated Press on Tuesday, announcing her primary challenge of first-term Republican Rep. Nancy Mace. “I’m very sure that we’ll win this race.”
In a launch video, Arrington called Mace “a sellout” who “is more interested in being a mainstream media celebrity than fighting for the people she is supposed to represent.” Referencing some of Mace’s recent legislative efforts, including bills to protect large cats and legalize marijuana, Arrington then asked, “Is Nancy Mace high?”
Sanford’s primary loss in 2018 was his first-ever electoral loss after two stints in Congress and eight years as South Carolina’s governor.
Arrington had made an issue of Sanford’s unvarnished criticism of the then-president, calling him a “Never Trumper.” Hours before polls closed, Trump endorsed Arrington on Twitter, saying Sanford is “nothing but trouble.”
Arrington went on to narrowly lose the general election to newcomer Joe Cunningham, a Democrat who flipped the district from red to blue for the first time in decades. At the time, she blamed Sanford for her loss and vowed to seek the 1st Congressional District seat again.
Two years later, Mace, who had worked for Trump’s 2016 campaign and drew his endorsement, defeated Cunningham, swinging the district back into Republican control. But after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, Mace went on TV to criticize Trump for his role in the day’s events, saying that the president’s accomplishments in office “were wiped out in just a few short hours.”
Trump responded in November, soliciting “any interest from good and SMART America First Republican Patriots” to run against a list of sitting House Republicans, including Mace. The former president hasn’t explicitly endorsed Arrington, although she said she’s hoping he will.
“I’m a pro-Trump conservative,” Arrington told the AP on Tuesday, noting that she worked with the president on pandemic-related PPP supply chain issues while employed at the Department of Defense. “I would hope I could get the president’s endorsement. Fingers crossed.”
Many of the candidates Trump has endorsed across the country have received that backing after making public statements about the 2020 presidential election having been rigged so that Trump would lose.
“Yeah, I do believe it was stolen,” Arrington said Tuesday, asked about the election, though adding that she felt Joe Biden had been “duly elected” president, but only because members of Congress had been too hasty to certify the election results, rather than send them to states for audit.
“If we could have done that, I don’t think (Vice President Mike) Pence would have been put into the position he was in, and I don’t think Americans across the board would have the distrust right now that they do,” Arrington said. “People like Nancy Mace that voted to certify the election, why couldn’t they have waited 30 days and sent it back to the states, just to audit?”
The election was not stolen and was certified as fair and legitimate by state electoral officials across the country who investigated the Trump campaign’s complaints and found them systematically groundless. Dozens of state and federal courts also rejected the claims.
An AP review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by Trump found fewer than 475 — a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election. The review also showed no collusion intended to rig the voting.
Should Trump endorse Arrington, it would put him in direct conflict with Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor who served as his U.N. ambassador and, like Trump, is reportedly mulling a 2024 presidential bid. This week, Haley announced her support for Mace, saying she would raise money on her behalf.
“Serving in Congress is the honor of my lifetime, and I at least partially have her 2018 loss in our District to thank for that,” Mace said Tuesday, of Arrington’s candidacy. “I look forward to earning the vote of everyone in the Lowcountry once again, and continuing to serve the 1st District in my next term.”
Several Democrats are also in the race. On Tuesday, one of them, Dr. Annie Andrews, agreed with Arrington on Mace’s “selfish quest to become a media celebrity,” going on to say she felt Arrington “is running to serve Donald Trump and Nancy Mace is running to continue serving herself.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.