South Carolina

A Bluffton man takes early aim at U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham’s seat in Congress

Joe Cunningham the day after defeating Katie Arrington for SC Congress seat

Congressman-elect Joe Cunningham holds a press conference after a call by his opponent Katie Arrington, conceding the race.
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Congressman-elect Joe Cunningham holds a press conference after a call by his opponent Katie Arrington, conceding the race.

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), fresh off congressional orientation, already has a prospective challenger in 2020, as a Bluffton man has filed to run for South Carolina’s 1st District.

Republican Mike Covert filed with the Federal Election Commission on Thursday, according to the agency’s website, but he says he’s not focused on Cunningham at the moment, wanting to secure his party’s nomination before challenging the first Democrat to represent the district in almost four decades.

“I wish (Cunningham) well while he’s there,” Covert said Friday morning. “But I wouldn’t get too comfortable with the office, because he’s going to be coming back home.”

It’s no secret Republicans hope to reclaim the seat that data from the S.C. Election Commission show Cunningham, of Charleston, won by less than 4,000 votes — a little over one percentage point.

But Covert’s filing — the first among any would-be Republican challengers, according to the FEC — is, in the candidate’s words, a “very serious” move.

“In terms of expediency, I want people to know that I’m very serious,” Covert said. “My supporters, I want them to know I’m very serious. It’s not Joe Cunningham; it’s the (Republican) primary.”

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Beaufort County District 7 Councilman Mike Covert — Twitter

Covert, a current Beaufort County councilman representing Bluffton, has had his eye on higher office for sometime now.

He and his team initially thought of challenging U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), but Covert said the longtime senator is, right now, “on an incredible high” and that his positions in recent months have been grounded in “good, conservative ideas.”

So, Covert and team switched their focus to District 1 after Cunningham’s narrow win.

“(W)hen the ... district flipped to a Democratic candidate for the first time in 40 years, we knew right away, without hesitation, that our next adventure would be to take that seat back,” Covert said.

Covert likes his chances because he fashions himself as a nontraditional candidate who can relate to everyday people.

“I said this when I ran for council and it still rings true today,” Covert said. “I am unlike any regular, normal politician because I am not a regular, normal politician.”

He said Washington was packed with traditional politicians — he specifically cited “lawyers,” Cunningham’s profession — and that the country’s framers never intended that.

In terms of platform, his biggest issue is the size (too big) and reach (too much) of the federal government.

Covert on Friday said he would eliminate the U.S. Dept. of Education and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture to curb federal spending and limit national oversight into state, county and municipal affairs.

He also proposed increasing the retirement age for social security to 67 and implementing a “fair tax” in place of the federal income tax; he called the income tax “one of the biggest thefts that the federal government does to its citizens.”

He denounced single-payer and federally controlled health care in favor of a free-market approach.

And he touched on prison and criminal justice reform, citing the need to combat opioid and drug abuse in the district but not clog jails and prisons with people convicted of minor crimes and misdemeanors, such as some involving marijuana.

Covert, originally from Virginia, has lived in the South Carolina since 1996, according to his county council profile.

He and wife Theresa married in 2009. He has four daughters and six grandchildren, according to the profile.

He is president and managing member of Covert Aire, LLC, a heating and air-conditioning business.

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