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Few incumbents face primary challenges on S. Carolina ballot

June 6, 2020 GMT
A voter casts a ballot in the South Carolina primary election, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
A voter casts a ballot in the South Carolina primary election, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

COLUMBIA,, S.C. (AP) — The COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of marquee races on either party’s ballot have left 2020 a quiet primary season in South Carolina.

The only statewide primary Tuesday sees Republican U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham seeking the nomination for a fourth term against three little-known GOP challengers before perhaps his hardest reelection fight.

All seven of South Carolina’s U.S. House members are running again, but just one incumbent faces a primary opponent. And only 34 of the 170 members of the General Assembly face a challenger from their own party — or just 20%

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In the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, lawmakers decided to allow no-excuse absentee voting by mail. They also struggled to find enough poll workers.

A candidate must get a majority of the votes to be nominated. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters must regroup quickly for a June 23 runoff.

1st DISTRICT

The marquee primary race is for the Republican nomination in the 1st District, which runs from Charleston to Hilton Head Island along the coast.

Four Republicans are running to take on incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham.

Cunningham pulled off a stunning win in 2018, flipping the seat from Republican to Democrat for the first time in 40 years and becoming South Carolina’s first new Democrat in Congress since Jim Clyburn in 1992.

The Republicans running are state Rep. Nancy Mace, who was the first woman to graduate from The Citadel; Kathy Landing, a businesswoman and financial planner who is on the Mount Pleasant Town Council; Chris Cox, who was the co-founder of Bikers for Trump and touts his chainsaw art; and Brad Mole, chairman of the Lowcountry Affordable Housing Coalition who said he was encouraged to run after meeting Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott at an empowerment event.

Mace and Landing have been sizing each other up during the campaign without directly taking each other on. Republicans remember the 2018 primary when Katie Arrington beat incumbent Mark Sanford by tearing him down as not a true Republican loyal to President Donald Trump and some typical GOP voters then turned to Cunnningham in the fall.

The general election race will be competitive and expensive. Cunningham has $2.6 million in his campaign bank account. Mace has raised $1.3 millions so far. Landing has raised $629,000 with about half through a personal loan to her campaign. Cox has raised $118,000 and Mole has raised $7,000, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

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2nd DISTRICT

The only incumbent U.S. House member on Tuesday’s ballot is Republican Joe Wilson, who is facing Michael Bishop, mayor of the Lexington County town of Springdale, population 2,600.

Bishop said the 2nd District, which extends from the suburbs of Columbia, through staunchly Republican Lexington County and into Aiken, needs new leadership. Wilson is running for a 10th full term.

The winner of the primary faces Democrat Adair Ford Boroughs, an attorney and founder of a nonprofit law firm that works with people who make too much for free legal services, but need affordable representation.

Boroughs has already raised more than $1 million. Wilson, if he wins renomination, has never faced such a well-funded challenger and has brought just $830,000 into his campaign during the past two years.

3rd DISTRICT

In the 3rd District, Democrats Hosea Cleveland and Mark D. Welch are competing to see who faces Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan in the district in the northwest corner of the state west of Greenville and north of Aiken.

Cleveland, a retired insurance salesman, is running for the fourth straight time. He only won the Democratic nomination in 2016 when he was unopposed.

Welch includes his distinctive handlebar mustache in his campaign logo and promises to work with anyone from any political party who wants to make South Carolina better.

5th DISTRICT

In the 5th District, Democrat Moe Brown is touting his days working in the state Commerce Department under former Republican Gov. Nikki Haley as he takes on retired businessman Sidney A. Moore in the 5th District.

Brown also is a former wide receiver for the University of South Carolina football team making his first run at political office.

Moore ran unsuccessfully for the same seat in 2018 and U.S. Senate in 2014.

The winner takes on Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, who is seeking a second full term in the sprawling district that includes the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina, northern sections of the Interstate 85 corridor and areas around Sumter.

7th DISTRICT

In the 7th District, three Democrats are running to face incumbent Republican U.S. Rep Tom Rice, who is seeking a fifth term in the district anchored by Florence and Myrtle Beach.

State Rep. Robert Williams is hedging his bets, also running unopposed for his state House seat he has held since 2007.

William H. “Cowboy” Williams is a U.S. Postal Service retiree who promises to fight crime, push for equal pay and gun rights with his slogan “Let’s ride together.”

Melissa Watson touts herself as a single mother and teacher who promises to work for economic development, education and infrastructure.

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Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP

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