Former state Rep. Katie Arrington tells The Hill that she’s considering seeking a GOP primary rematch against South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace, who shocked her colleagues last week when she voted to terminate Kevin McCarthy’s speakership. Things could become still more volatile in the Palmetto State, though, because the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments Wednesday for a lawsuit that seeks to strike down Mace’s 1st District as a racial gerrymander.
We’ll start with Arrington, who told reporter Caroline Vakil that “all options are on the table” for another campaign against an incumbent who is no stranger to making enemies within her own party. Mace, who unseated Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham in 2020, broke with Donald Trump in the days after she was forced to barricade in her office during the Jan. 6 attack, saying, “I hold him accountable for the events that transpired.” Although the congresswoman, who was an early 2016 Trump supporter, never backed impeachment and soon stopped trying to pick fights with him, her party’s master endorsed Arrington as part of an effort to purge critics.
But while Arrington did all she could to try to frame the primary as a battle between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces, Mace used her superior financial resources to advance a different narrative. The congresswoman reminded voters that Arrington had denied renomination in 2018 to another Trump critic, then-Rep. Mark Sanford, only to suffer an upset loss against Cunningham. The GOP legislature had already done what it could to make sure that no Republican could lose this coastal South Carolina seat by passing a map that extended Trump’s 2020 margin from 52-46 to 54-45, but Mace still argued that Arrington could once again cost the party the general election.
The incumbent prevailed 53-45 before easily winning the general election, but Mace wasn’t done refashioning her public image. This summer she became a prominent Trump defender on cable news, and Politico reported he passed on his compliments to the congresswoman he’d previously castigated as a “grandstanding loser.” But Mace’s biggest moment in the spotlight came last week when she joined Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, whom she’d called “a fraud” earlier this year, and six other Republicans to oust McCarthy.
Observers, including Arrington, were quick to highlight how McCarthy’s allies had deployed millions to help Mace in 2020, and the former speaker’s backers were also quick to blast the congresswoman’s perceived disloyalty. Mace, for her part, argued McCarthy had broken his word to her by refusing to advance her priorities, including a balanced budget amendment and a bill to test more rape kits, and she predicted his backers would seek revenge. “I do need help, because they are coming after me,” she said last week to Steve Bannon, the former Trump strategist whom she’d voted to hold in contempt of Congress in 2021.
However, not everyone agrees that Mace will need much help to win renomination in 2024. “When you look at the voting base there, they’re not your typical party-line Republican,” longtime GOP strategist Dave Wilson told Vakil of the local GOP primary electorate. “They’re a little bit more independent in the way that they think.” Arrington, though, dismissed Mace’s actions as a “political stunt” and predicted that if she doesn’t run, “[T]here will be many others.” South Carolina requires a primary runoff if no one secures a majority in the first round.
Complicating things further is that no one knows yet just what Mace’s district will even look like next year. In January, a federal court ruled that Republican lawmakers intentionally discriminated against Black voters when they redrew Mace’s 1st District by packing too many African Americans into the neighboring 6th District. However, it’s up to the nation’s highest court to decide if the legislature needs to rework the 1st or if the current boundaries will stand.
Even if the Supreme Court strikes down the current map, though, Republicans may still be able to keep their hold on six of the state’s seven congressional districts. As we explained in January, the lower court’s ruling hinged on the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause rather than the Voting Rights Act; while the latter can require states to draw districts that empower Black voters to elect their chosen candidates, the former has been interpreted to mandate only that map-makers don’t let race predominate over other factors without a compelling justification when crafting lines.
For now at least, Mace is behaving like she has more to worry about on her right flank than from Democrats. The congresswoman announced Sunday that she was joining Trump in endorsing Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, an election conspiracy theorist, for speaker. CBS’ Margaret Brennan followed up by asking Mace about the accusations from several former Ohio State University wrestlers alleging that Jordan, who was an assistant coach in the 1980s and 90s, knew their team doctor was sexually assaulting them but didn’t intervene. “I’m not familiar or aware with that,” said Mace. “He’s not indicted on anything that I’m aware of. I don’t know anything and can’t speak to that.”
Author: Jeff Singer