What to expect in South Carolina’s state primaries

Federal and state lawmakers in South Carolina will go before voters on Tuesday in primary elections, where the latest skirmish in an ongoing feud involving a former Republican U.S. House Speaker will play out.

Voters will decide nearly 90 contested primaries for the House of Representatives and both chambers of the state legislature. Republicans’ grip on those offices is likely not at risk this fall, but one contest may further exacerbate a high-profile rift within the party.

Rep. Nancy Mace is running for a third term in the 1st Congressional District in the state’s Lowcountry along the Atlantic coastline near Charleston. In 2023, she was one of eight U.S. House Republicans to break with the party and vote to oust Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Speaker of the House. Since then, McCarthy has thrown the weight of his political operation and fundraising prowess against the defectors and has backed challengers to unseat them in their primaries.

In April, McCarthy’s political action committee, Majority Committee PAC or “MC PAC,” made a $10,000 contribution to Mace’s Primary opponent, Catherine Templeton, the former director of the state’s labor agency under then-Gov. Nikki Haley. A separate committee, American Prosperity Alliance, where a McCarthy ally serves as a senior adviser, has made contributions to a group called South Carolina Patriots PAC, which has spent more than $2.1 million to defeat Mace. American Prosperity Alliance has also made contributions to a group called the America Fund, which is one of the South Carolina Patriots PAC’s principal donors.

McCarthy backed Mace as recently as her 2022 reelection bid, but the relationship deteriorated quickly since the Speaker vote. McCarthy told reporters in February that he hopes Mace “gets the help to straighten out her life. She’s got a lot of challenges.” Mace responded in a fundraising video that McCarthy “lied to the American people” and that he is “a loser.” She has described Templeton as McCarthy’s “puppet.”

In addition to McCarthy, Templeton’s other supporters include former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Joe Wilson of the nearby 2nd Congressional District. Mace has the backing of former President Donald Trump and current Speaker Mike Johnson.

Other key races on Tuesday include the GOP primaries in the state’s 3rd and 4th Congressional Districts. In the 3rd District, a crowded field of seven Republicans is competing for the nomination to replace Rep. Jeff Duncan, who announced in January that he would not seek an eighth term. In the 4th District, three-term Rep. William Timmons faces a challenge from state Rep. Adam Morgan, founder of South Carolina’s version of the U.S. House Republicans’ Freedom Caucus. Voters in the 3rd District gave Trump 68% of the vote in 2020, while 58% of 4th District voters backed the then-President.

Further down the ballot are about two dozen state Senate primaries and just shy of 60 state House primaries. All 170 state legislative seats are up for election in November. Republicans enjoy lopsided majorities in both chambers.

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