Incumbent Nancy Mace (R) and Katie Arrington (R) are running in the Republican primary for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District on June 14, 2022.
Arrington won the district’s Republican primary in 2018, defeating incumbent and former governor Mark Sanford (R) before losing the general election to Joe Cunningham (D). Cunningham was the first Democratic U.S. House candidate to win election in the district since 1978. Mace defeated Cunningham in 2020 and says she is best-positioned to win the general election. However, former President Donald Trump (R) is targeting Mace (along with several other congressional Republicans) for voting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. His endorsement of Arrington has focused national media attention on the race.
Mace represented South Carolina’s 99th House District from 2018 to 2020. Her campaign has focused on electability. Mace said, “It’s the 10th fastest growing congressional district in the country…That makes the dynamics a lot different. You’ve got to be able to win your primary but you also have to be able to win a general election…Nancy Pelosi would love nothing more than to win it back.” Mace has been endorsed by former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (R), former White House chief of staff and U.S. House member from South Carolina Mick Mulvaney (R), U.S. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R), and others.
Arrington served as an information security officer in the U.S. Department of Defense during the Trump Administration. She also represented South Carolina’s 94th House District from 2016 to 2018. Arrington’s campaign has focused on positioning her as the true conservative in the race. Arrington said, “Nancy Mace, she’s not a conservative…[she] turned her back on us, and she turned her back on President Trump.” Arrington also said that Mace, “read the room wrong; she thought this district was a moderate district, and we are not. We are conservative.” In addition to Trump’s endorsement, Arrington has been endorsed by Lynz Piper-Loomis (R), a former candidate in this primary who withdrew from the race and endorsed Arrington during an official debate on May 20, 2022, and others.
Arrington has criticized Mace’s effort to enact federal marijuana legislation, saying, “That’s not what conservatives are concerned about right now…We’re concerned about the economy, we’re concerned about our children and we’re concerned about national security.” Arrington has also criticized Mace’s stance on abortion, tweeting, “Abortion is murder. Anyone in favor of exceptions, Nancy Mace included, are complicit in the systematic killing of millions of unborn babies. I am 100% pro-life with no exceptions.” Mace has stated publicly that she is a rape victim and has advocated for federal exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape or incest.
Mace’s response to the criticism from her opponent has been twofold. She says she has a conservative voting record in Congress and highlights her scorecard from the conservative nonprofit The Heritage Foundation. Additionally, she says she has worked with Democrats to pass legislation and tried to explain the district’s independence. Mace said, “This district is different…I don’t think it’s like the rest of the country. We march to the beat of our own drum. We want someone who’s going to be an independent voice.”
Analysts have described this primary race as a bellwether for Trump’s influence. As political science professor Gibbs Knotts explained, “This is the type of district that’s going to decide who controls the House.” Before the primary, the Cook Political Report, Sabato’s Crystal Ball, and Inside Elections all rated South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District as a solid/safe Republican seat. This means that the winner of the Republican primary is also likely to win the general election.