Mace flips South Carolina seat in US House back to GOP

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Republican Nancy Mace has defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, dealing a blow to the gains South Carolina Democrats made two years ago.

Mace, a member of the state House, beat Cunningham in a seat Republicans loudly announced they were determined to flip back days after the Democrat’s win in 2018.

She will be only the second woman elected to a full term in the U.S. House from South Carolina.

Mace got support from President Donald Trump on Twitter and once worked on the president’s campaign. But, while trying to link Cunningham to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mace stayed fairly quiet about Trump’s support. Anger about the president helped Cunningham make his bipartisan push to win in 2018.

Mace is the first woman to graduate from The Citadel.

Cunningham knew he was in for a tough reelection fight immediately and raised $6 million. Between the Republican primary and the general election, Mace raised more than $4 million, making it by far the costliest U.S. House race in South Carolina history.

The congressional district stretching from Charleston to Hilton Head Island along the state’s coast is richer, more educated and less conservative than much of South Carolina. It also had the smallest gap of any Republican-represented congressional district in the 2016 presidential election, going to the GOP by about 14 percentage points.

Cunningham, 38, worked carefully to build bipartisan support in 2018, getting Republican mayors and other officials in small beach towns to support him by opposing offshore drilling.

Cunningham continued to tout his support by Republicans this year.

Mace promised to continue that bipartisan work and represent everyone in the district.

“It goes to show how with the value of hard work you can make anything possible. My life has been a series of second chances and the voters of South Carolina’s 1st District have given me a chance to show and prove that I will be a compassionate leader, a good listener, an independent thinker,” Mace told The Associated Press.

Mace was buoyed by Republicans sweeping through a number of races Tuesday with margins far bigger than recent years.

Mace, 42, emerged from a four-candidate Republican primary. She ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in her first political race in 2014 before being elected to the South Carolina House twice.

Mace spent the last few weeks of the race trying to make closing Parris Island’s Marine training base near Hilton Head Island an issue.

Cunningham, along with six of South Carolina’s seven Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate supported a military spending bill that requires Parris Island to be able to train both men and women together in five years.

Marine leaders said closing Parris Island and building a new base somewhere else was one of several ideas being considered.

Republican Gov. Henry McMaster joined others in his party in promising the Marines they would do whatever was asked of the state to keep Parris Island open.


Meg Kinnard contributed to this report.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at


Find AP’s full election coverage at