Politics & Government

Reps. Sanford, Mulvaney draw primary challengers in South Carolina

The dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.
The dome of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. McClatchy

Twenty-six candidates hoping to represent South Carolina’s seven congressional districts filed by Wednesday’s noon deadline to appear on the June 14 primary ballots.

The Lowcountry seat currently held by Republican Rep. Mark Sanford looks to be the most competitive, with Sanford drawing a primary challenger who’s already raised thousands of dollars.

1st District Sanford’s primary challenger is state Rep. Jenny Horne. An attorney who has been a Summerville representative since 2008, Horne received national attention last summer when a video of her emotional anti-Confederate flag speech went viral. Speaking to the state House after the Emmanuel AME Church shooting in Charleston, she said that anything less than removing the flag would be an insult to the families of the nine victims, which included Lowcountry Sen. Clementa Pickney. She gave several interviews to national news outlets and announced her intention to run for Congress soon after.

Sanford, a former governor, has held the 1st District seat since 2013, making a political comeback after he vanished to see his then-mistress in Argentina. As of December 2015, he has raised $360,208 to Horne’s $32,070 according to financial disclosure reports.

The South Carolina GOP does not plan to endorse a candidate in the primary, chairman Matt Moore said.

“We believe primaries strengthen the debate on policies and ideas,” he said, “and we wish every candidate the best.”

Lowcountry activist Dimitri Cherny was the only person to file for the Democratic primary. He has said that he’s most concerned about the “corrupting influence of big money – billionaire money – on our politics.” Cherny made headlines last month when he expressed his support of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders by getting the Vermont senator’s name tattooed on his arm.

Libertarian candidate Michael Grier and American Party candidate Albert Travison also filed for the 1st district.

2nd District Two Democrats filed to compete for the right to challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Joe Wilson in the general election – small business owner Phil Black from Lexington and Columbia writer Arik Bjorn, who has run the S.C. SmartState program. Wilson, known for shouting “You lie!” during President Barack Obama’s 2009 State of the Union speech, has held the seat since 2001. Eddie McCain, a retired Army sergeant, filed to run as an American Party candidate.

3rd District Hosea Cleveland filed for the Democratic primary for the position now held by Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan, who has held the seat since 2011. Cleveland also ran in 2014 but was defeated in the primary by Barbara Jo Mullis. As of Wednesday, he had not set up a campaign website or online materials.

4th District Spartanburg attorney Chris Fedalai, a Democrat, filed to face Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy in the fall. The 26-year old says his campaign is about “speaking out for marginalized communities within South Carolina.” He has expressed support for the refugee resettlement program that Gowdy has introduced legislation to reform. Gowdy, who became a national figure as chairman of the House special committee investigating the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was elected over Democratic opponents in 2010 and 2012 by more than 30 percentage points, and ran unopposed in 2014. Constitution Party member Michael Chandler is also running.

5th District Rep. Mick Mulvaney will face a primary challenge from Lake Wylie resident Ray Craig, who in his announcement said that the Rock Hill Republican “largely squandered the five-plus years as a back-bencher even to his own party.” Fran Person, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden, will seek the seat on the Democratic side. A former University of South Carolina football player from Tega Cay, he worked for Biden for eight years before leaving for a job at USC as an assistant to president Harris Pastides and athletics director Ray Tanner.

York County state Rep. John King, a Democrat who introduced a resolution in January saying that presidential candidate Donald Trump was not welcome in his state, also filed to run for Mulvaney’s seat. He is also chairman-elect of the S.C. Legislative Black Caucus.

Two American Party candidates filed to run for Mulvaney’s seat: Rudy Barnes, an attorney from Little Mountain and IT manager Larry Gaither from Winnsboro. The American Party was founded in 2014 by disaffected Democrats and Republicans who find one party too liberal and the other too conservative. Mulvaney, a founding member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, has held his seat since 2011.

6th District Bluffton Republican Laura Sterling will challenge Rep. Jim Clyburn, the only S.C. Democrat in Congress. Clyburn has held his seat since 1993 and is the third-ranking Democrat in the House. Sterling, an entrepreneur, says that the “federal government is broken” and that in “this year of change” she hopes to make a difference.

7th District Myrtle Beach Republican Rep. Tom Rice, who has held the seat since the district was created in 2012, drew no challenge in the primary. Coker College sociology professor Mal Hyman was the only candidate to file on the Democratic side.

CORRECTION: The original version of this story omitted 5th District candidate Ray Craig, who filed his bid to challenge Rep. Mick Mulvaney on Wednesday.

Vera Bergengruen: 202-383-6036, @verambergen

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