4th District race extends GOP vs GOP feud from Columbia to Washington

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U.S. Rep. William Timmons, a Republican from South Carolina, speaks at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on oversight of the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve coronavirus pandemic response on Capitol Hill on Sept. 30, 2021, in Washington, D.C. (File/Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

The Upstate primary contest between U.S. Rep. William Timmons and his GOP challenger, state House Rep. Adam Morgan, is part of a larger intra-party fight among Republicans both in Washington and Columbia.

On Tuesday evening, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida will appear at Morgan’s campaign event after endorsing him over the three-term 4th District incumbent. It’s one of several races where Gaetz, who touts his reputation as an outspoken firebrand, is backing a candidate challenging an incumbent Republican over the disapproval of House GOP leadership.

Gaetz has also backed controversial YouTube creator Brandon Herrera, who makes firearms videos, in his effort to oust incumbent Republican Tony Gonzales in Texas. In a CNN interview Sunday, Gonzales called Gaetz and others “scumbags.”

Rep. Adam Morgan, R-Taylors, in House chambers on the opening day of the 2024 session Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Morgan is chairman of the hardline conservative Freedom Caucus. (File/Mary Ann Chastain/Special to the SC Daily Gazette)

Morgan, R-Taylors, said Gaetz reached out to him after a video, initially posted in March 2023, of Morgan speaking on the Statehouse floor went viral, and after Gaetz learned about the state House Freedom Caucus that Morgan chairs.

As leader of the Freedom Caucus, launched in spring 2022, Morgan is no stranger to sparring with fellow Republicans.

After the November 2022 elections, Freedom Caucus members who refused to sign rules adopted by the House GOP Caucus were dumped from the majority caucus. The rule that caused the split was a pledge not to campaign against — in other words, don’t help challengers defeat — fellow House Republicans.

The Freedom Caucus continues to oppose Republicans in the majority in heated floor debates over everything from the state budget to using campaign funds for childcare.

Even on legislation backed by the Freedom Caucus, debates can drag on for hours as Morgan and others try unsuccessfully to insert stricter penalties.

Morgan, 34, said he wanted to run for the 4th District seat — the state’s most compact district, covering most of Greenville and Spartanburg counties — because he feels Timmons is not representing the district effectively.

“I’ve led the conservative effort at the state level, and we’ve had an empty seat for too long, so that’s why I’m running,” said Morgan, an attorney and president of Majesty Music Inc., a family-owned Christian music and book publishing company. Timmons was first elected to the state House in 2018.

Timmons, 39, represented Greenville in the state Senate for one term before his first election to Congress in 2018. He replaced Trey Gowdy, who opted not to seek re-election after four terms. A former prosecutor, Timmons is a miliary lawyer and captain in the South Carolina Air National Guard.

His campaign pointed to an endorsement in February from former President Donald Trump.

Morgan and Timmons have been sniping at each other on X, formerly Twitter, over who supports the former president more in the solidly red district.

“President Trump gave his complete and total endorsement to Congressman William Timmons,” Timmons’ campaign said in a statement to the SC Daily Gazette. “But Adam Morgan is more interested in attacking President Trump. Adam Morgan’s personal vendetta against President Trump will not play well in the Upstate.”

The statement refers to Timmons’ accusations of Morgan being a “Never Trumper.” He also shared a screenshot of a 2016 tweet in which Morgan called the president “Jabba the Hut.”

Morgan dismissed that tweet as part of a series of jokes he posted during a Republican primary debate poking fun of several candidates. He said he supports Trump and will vote for him again in November.

“I think my opponent has nothing to run on so he’s literally trying to ride the coattails of the president,” Morgan said. “I think it’s a little embarrassing. You should talk about what you’ve done.”

Morgan knocked Timmons on X for voting to advance a controversial surveillance program that Trump opposed. In response, Timmons said, “all lies Adam is at it again,” explaining that he voted on a procedural motion to begin debate. When the bill itself came to the floor, he voted against reauthorizing the program.

Timmons’ endorsements from other Republicans in Congress include U.S. Reps. Byron Donalds of Florida, a member of the congressional Freedom Caucus, and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, a controversial figure tossed from the Freedom Caucus last year.

Gaetz, for his part, is also frequently in conflict with GOP leaders in the U.S House, not only over campaigning against colleagues but also for his personal life.

Last week, ABC reported that the House Ethics Committee in the majority Republican chamber is investigating whether he used illicit drugs while serving in Congress. The Department of Justice also investigated Gaetz over allegations of a sexual relationship with a minor, ultimately deciding not to bring charges. Gaetz has denied any wrongdoing.

Morgan said he appreciated Gaetz’s support and was not concerned about the controversy around the Florida representative.

“At the end of the day, I’m running on my record, not anybody else’s,” Morgan said. “The reality is that what voters are choosing between is me, my record, my character, and my opponent’s record and character.”

In 2022, Timmons was accused of having an affair, which he denied at the time. Later that year, his wife filed for separation, saying in a public statement that they were divorcing with “love and mutual respect.”


Timmons has the cash advantage — so far, at least.

The incumbent raised nearly $300,000 in the first quarter of the year, ending the period with $790,000 on hand, according to campaign filings.

Morgan raised about $112,000 in the same time period, ending with over $150,000 available. He touts receiving far more small-dollar donations, which campaign filings confirm.

Among the donors to Timmons’ campaign this quarter are political action committees affiliated with House Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

Morgan has received donations from Gaetz and a PAC associated with U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill, who represents the adjacent 5th District and is a former state House member. An original member of the congressional Freedom Caucus, Norman also was on hand for the launch of the state House caucus.

The winner of the June 11 GOP primary will face a Democrat and third-party candidate in November.

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