McCarthy foe Nancy Mace will repel primary challenge in South Carolina, CNN projects

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace is seen at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 13, 2023. J. Scott Applewhite/APCNN — 

McCarthy foe Nancy Mace will repel primary challenge in South Carolina, CNN projects

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace will win the Republican primary for the state’s 1st Congressional District, CNN projects, staving off two challengers and a push by allies of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, whom she voted to oust.

By taking a majority of the vote Tuesday, Mace is projected to avoid a June 25 primary runoff in her quest for a third term representing the coastal Charleston-area seat.

Tuesday’s outcome comes as a much-needed win for Mace, who has become an increasingly polarizing figure within her party. She has faced waves of criticism over the past several months, including accusations that she created a toxic workplace to anger over votes by her and seven other Republicans to boot McCarthy from the speakership in October.

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace is seen at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on December 13, 2023. J. Scott Applewhite/AP

Days after the move, Mace wore a white T-shirt with a red “A” on the front, a reference to the novel “The Scarlet Letter” and what she described as a demonization of her vote.

McCarthy sought his revenge at the ballot box, with his allies spending millions attacking Mace during the primary. The congresswoman and groups backing her painted chief opponent Catherine Templeton – a former South Carolina Cabinet official under Republican Gov. Nikki Haley – as a McCarthy puppet.

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Mace has faced criticism for her evolving relationship with former President Donald Trump. After the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol, Mace told CNN that Trump’s “entire legacy was wiped out” that day. In the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections, Trump backed her primary opponent Katie Arrington. Among Mace’s chief backers in that primary was Haley, who campaigned with Mace and appeared in a TV ad on her behalf. Mace went on to defeat Arrington by 8 points.

Two years later, Mace endorsed Trump over Haley ahead of South Carolina’s Republican presidential primary. The former president endorsed Mace in March, calling her a “strong conservative voice.”

Mace was first elected in 2020, when she narrowly unseated Democratic incumbent Joe Cunningham. She comfortably won reelection two years later after the district was redrawn to become more favorable to the GOP.

A three-judge panel concluded last year that the district’s new lines amounted to an unconstitutional racial gerrymander. But the US Supreme Court upheld the new map last month, rejecting the argument that state lawmakers had impermissibly used race as a proxy to bolster the GOP’s chances.

Trump-backed congressman survives hard-line challenge

Meanwhile, in the state’s 4th Congressional District, Republican Rep. William Timmons will win his primary, CNN projects, becoming the latest GOP lawmaker to fight off a challenge from his right flank this year.

Timmons, who had Trump’s endorsement, is projected to defeat state Rep. Adam Morgan, who had the backing of several members of the House Freedom Caucus and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz.


Rep. William Timmons speaks in Anderson, South Carolina, on August 22, 2022. Meg Kinnard/AP/File

In a primary that was largely focused on style over substance, Morgan and his allies argued that Timmons was unwilling to buck party leadership, including McCarthy. Timmons pointed to his conservative record and other key endorsements, including from South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, House Speaker Mike Johnson and conservative Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Gaetz and other GOP hard-liners have had limited success this cycle in backing primary challengers to their colleagues. Republican Reps. Tony Gonzales of Texas and Don Bacon of Nebraska are among several House Republicans who have beaten back challenges from their right this year.

Timmons was first elected to office in 2018, succeeding Republican Trey Gowdy in the Upstate South Carolina seat, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg. In 2022, Timmons was accused of engaging in an extramarital affair, which he has denied. He and his wife divorced that same year.

Timmons held a big advantage over Morgan in the money race, raising more than $1.9 million through May 22, compared with $578,000 by his opponent. The incumbent was also boosted by outside spending, including super PAC ads that described him as tough on the border and touted his endorsement from McMaster.

This story has been updated with additional information.

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