Filing period closes for South Carolina’s primary elections

March 30, 2022 GMT
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party Black Caucus' "Sunday Dinner" on Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party Black Caucus' "Sunday Dinner" on Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party Black Caucus' "Sunday Dinner" on Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
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Former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party Black Caucus' "Sunday Dinner" on Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
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Former U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who is seeking the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, speaks at the South Carolina Democratic Party Black Caucus' "Sunday Dinner" on Sunday, March 27, 2022, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The candidate field is set for South Carolina’s 2022 elections, which feature a competitive Democratic gubernatorial primary, a wide-open education superintendent race and a pair of intraparty congressional battles featuring Republican incumbents fending off challengers backed by former President Donald Trump.

Filing for candidates in state, federal and local offices closed Wednesday. South Carolina’s primary elections are June 14.

At the top of the ticket, with a war chest of nearly $4.5 million, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster drew a pair of GOP challengers, although neither has reported fundraising. If he wins a second full term, McMaster — a longtime ally of Trump who has his backing in this year’s election — would become the longest-serving governor in South Carolina history.

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No Democrat has won the state’s top office since 1998. McMaster won his 2018 contest over Democrat James Smith by 8 percentage points.

A handful of Democrats are squaring off for the opportunity to face McMaster, including Joe Cunningham, the former one-term congressman who lost his 2020 reelection, and state Sen. Mia McLeod, the first Black woman to run for South Carolina governor. Already campaigning for months, Cunningham and McLeod have raised $1.3 million and $359,000, respectively.

Both addressed a Sunday dinner hosted by the state Democratic Party’s Black Caucus, with Cunningham promoting himself as “the only person in this race to flip a seat” — a reference to his 2018 win over Republican Katie Arrington. McLeod took veiled shots at Cunningham, noting she had marked “five victories, not just one” and saying South Carolina will “never have a Democratic governor again if we only support candidates who run like Republicans.”

Other Democrats have not posted fundraising.

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The two most closely watched congressional seats are along South Carolina’s coast, where incumbent U.S. Reps. Tom Rice and Nancy Mace are being targeted by Trump for behavior he has characterized as disloyal. Rice, of the 7th District, was among 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump’s second impeachment last year. In the 1st District, Mace drew the former president’s ire by voting to certify President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory, as well as frequent television appearances in which she blamed Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

A dozen potential challengers floated bids against Rice after his impeachment vote, although only six ended up filing. Trump campaigned several weeks ago for one of them, state Rep. Russell Fry, calling Rice “a disaster” who is “respected by no one.”

That same rally featured Arrington, who is challenging Mace. The former state House representative successfully knocked off incumbent GOP Rep. Mark Sanford in 2018 but lost the general election to Cunningham.

Trump said Mace — whom he backed in 2020 — is “crazy” and “has no idea what she’s doing.”

Rice and Mace have brought in $1.3 million and $3 million, respectively, while Fry has raised $351,000. Arrington, who entered the race in February, has not posted fundraising. Annie Andrews is the sole Democrat running in Mace’s 1st District and has raised $500,000, according to federal records.

The other five members of South Carolina’s U.S. House delegation are all seeking reelection. U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan has no primary or general election opposition, and Republican U.S. Ralph Norman and Joe Wilson have no primary opponents. Three Republicans are primarying U.S. Rep. William Timmons, who has raised at least $470,000 in his bid for a third term.

U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, the state’s lone congressional Democrat, has drawn two primary opponents as he seeks his 16th term. Only one — educator Gregg Marcel Dixon — has reported taking in any money, marking about $11,000 as of the end of last year. Feeling confident, Clyburn recently told The Associated Press he plans to spend time campaigning for other Democrats.

Seeking what he has said will be his final term, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott will be unopposed in his primary and has taken in $38 million thus far. Three Democrats are running against Scott.

Further down the ballot, a dozen candidates have filed to replace retiring Education Superintendent Molly Spearman. That includes eight Republicans. Only one of them, school-choice advocate Ellen Weaver, has marked significant fundraising, bringing in more than $125,000.

State senators don’t face voters until 2024, but all of South Carolina’s state House seats are up for reelection. A number of House Republicans have announced their retirement, including Speaker Jay Lucas and Majority Leader Gary Simrill.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.