Mace easily wins GOP primary in 1st District; 3rd District heads to a runoff

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Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) speaks to reporters as she leaves the U.S. Capitol Building on Jan. 27, 2023, in Washington, DC. (File/Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

COLUMBIA — U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace trounced her GOP challengers in the coastal 1st District and U.S. Rep. William Timmons of Greenville hung on Tuesday, while the race to replace Rep. Jeff Duncan headed to a runoff.

Mace easily defeated Catherine Templeton, a former director of two state agencies, and longshot candidate Bill Young in the GOP primary.

The Associated Press called the race for Mace at 8:40 p.m. Tuesday, with less than 30% of the vote counted. When all votes were counted, Mace led by 27 percentage points over Templeton.

She will face Democrat Michael Moore in November.

“We did it — You, Lowcountry voters did it!” Mace posted on X/formerly Twitter. “A thousand times over — THANK YOU!”

The two-term GOP incumbent, who likes to cast herself as independent-minded, had the endorsement of former President Donald Trump this time — two years after he endorsed her Republican challenger. But Templeton, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2018, campaigned to the right of Mace.

On Wednesday morning, Templeton put out a statement saying she would support “the Republican Party and our nominee.”

“I ran to provide a hopeful message of consistent conservatism and serious results,” Templeton said in the statement. “I’m proud of our campaign.”

With relatively minor differences in policy, Mace and Templeton sparred over past votes, conduct in office, and, in an extensive-back-and forth, Templeton’s role in a 13-year-old state immigration law.

Despite never serving in the state Legislature, Templeton claimed credit for the final form of the 2011 immigration law from her time serving as head of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation. After Templeton aired an advertisement claiming about the law, Mace’s campaign sent a cease-and-desist letter to the stations that aired it.

Although rated as one of the top 10% most bipartisan legislators in the House, Mace has not always stuck with the center of her own party. Last fall, she joined the hard right flank of the House GOP to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy’s political action committee gave Templeton $10,000 in April, and other organizations affiliated with the former speaker have spent large amounts of money on Templeton’s challenge.

In the week before the primary, Mace caught national press attention for being one of the top users of a new reimbursement program for House members. On Saturday, the New York Times reported that the House Ethics Committee will look into Mace’s spending under the program.

Templeton faced a challenge from within her own family. In April, Templeton’s 18-year-old son, Hampton, was arrested for first-degree assault, accused of beating up a classmate outside a party in January. It was his second arrest in seven months, though a road rage incident in September was dropped, according to reporting by The Post and Courier.

Templeton received the backing of Speaker Newt Gingrich from neighboring Georgia, who won South Carolina’s GOP presidential primary in 2012. She was also endorsed by U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, who represents South Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

Beside Trump’s endorsement, Mace also picked up the endorsement of Gov. Henry McMaster, who defeated Templeton in 2018, and U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana.

The 1st Congressional District centers on Charleston and runs along the state’s southern coast.

 South Carolina Congressional candidate Michael B. Moore speaks at a rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 11, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (File/Shannon Finney/Getty Images for Rooted Logistics)
South Carolina Congressional candidate Michael B. Moore speaks at a rally outside of the U.S. Supreme Court on October 11, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (File/Shannon Finney/Getty Images for Rooted Logistics)

On the Democratic side, Moore defeated Mac Deford.

Moore is a businessman and former CEO of the International African American Museum. He is also the great-great grandson of Robert Smalls, a Civil War hero, Reconstruction-era state legislator and five-term congressman. Deford is a Coast Guard veteran and attorney who most recently served as attorney for the town of Hilton Head Island.

Moore will have an uphill climb in the district, which has moved in the Cook Political report, a non-partisan political analysis publication, from “likely Republican” to “solid Republican.” 

Mace narrowly flipped the seat back to red in 2020 by ousting one-term Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, who similarly narrowly won in 2018. In the post-census redrawing of district lines, the GOP-controlled Legislature moved precincts around to make the seat safer for a Republican to win. And in 2022, Mace prevailed against a GOP and Democratic challenger.  

The American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina and NAACP sued over the new lines, which they argued were racially discriminatory. A federal three-judge panel agreed. But in late May, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the panel’s conclusions, saying the lower court “clearly erred” in finding the lines were racially gerrymandered. Regardless of the Supreme Court ruling, the election this year was going to proceed with the lines as signed into law in early 2022. 

3rd District

In the 3rd District, Mark Burns, a pastor who has Trump’s backing, and Sheri Biggs, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, are heading into a runoff election in two weeks, according to the Associated Press.

That contest was one South Carolina race where McMaster and Trump split on endorsements. The governor backed Biggs, who is a longtime donor to his campaign.

The crowded, seven-way GOP primary kicked off after Duncan announced he would not be running again after 14 years in Congress.

The five Republicans defeated Tuesday include Kevin Bishop, the recently retired longtime communication director for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and state Rep. Stewart Jones, a founding member of the hard-right Freedom Caucus.

The district covers 11 counties along South Carolina’s northern border with Georgia, from Edgefield to Oconee.

Burns finished with about a third of the vote, while Biggs had just under 30%.

The winner of the runoff will face Democrat Bryon Best in November for the solidly Republican seat.

4th District

Timmons narrowly fended off House Rep. Adam Morgan, chair of the chamber’s Freedom Caucus.

Preliminary results show him winning by 3 percentage points, or less than 2,300 votes.

Timmons, first elected in 2018, received a broad range of endorsements — including from Trump, McMaster, Johnson, and nationally known conservatives U.S. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Byron Donalds and Jim Jordan. Donalds is a member of the congressional Freedom Caucus, while Greene was booted from the caucus last year.

Morgan, meanwhile, picked up the support of U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, who backed several challengers to his fellow Republican incumbents despite the opposition of House GOP leadership.

“I want to thank the voters for once again putting their trust in me,” Timmons said in a statement late Tuesday. “In Washington I am focused on policy – not headlines, on representing my constituents – not myself, and working with my colleagues instead of working against them.”

Timmons is a former prosecutor, military lawyer and captain in the South Carolina Air National Guard. Morgan is an attorney and president of Majesty Music Inc., a family-owned Christian music and book publishing company.

In April, Morgan told the SC Daily Gazette he was running because “we’ve had an empty seat for too long.” Timmons accused Morgan of opposing Trump and lying about his own record and Timmons’ record.

Morgan also made headlines during the race when he said that state agencies were sending voter registration information to non-citizens. The Freedom Caucus sent McMaster a letter requesting an investigation and the State Election Commission received a number of calls and even some threats. The State Law Enforcement Division found no wrongdoing.

Timmons will face Kathryn Harvey, the Democratic candidate.

The district is the most compact in the state, covering most of Greenville and Spartanburg counties.

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.”

6th District

Duke Buckner beat Justin Scott to face U.S. Rep Jim Clyburn, the state’s only Democratic congressional representative, in November.

Clyburn is running for his 17th term. He faced no primary opponents, and is expected to win the seat easily.

Three other candidates have filed to run as third-party candidates.

The district runs from Columbia to Charleston and from the state’s western boundary with Georgia to the Pee Dee.

2nd District

Wilson, first elected in a 2001 special election, cruised to a win Tuesday against a largely unknown GOP challenger, Hamp Redmond of Swansea. In November, Wilson will face David Robinson II, who defeated Daniel Shrief in the Democratic primary. 

Both the Republican and Democratic races in that district were called at 8:15 p.m. by The AP.

The 2nd Congressional District stretches from Aiken and Barnwell counties at the Georgia border to northern Richland County.

U.S. Reps. Ralph Norman of the 5th District and Russell Fry of the 7th District did not have a GOP challenger.

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