Incumbent Nancy Mace (R) defeated Katie Arrington (R) in the Republican primary for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District on June 14, 2022, winning about 53% of the vote.
Arrington won the district’s Republican primary in 2018, defeating then-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 said she is better-positioned to win the general election. Former President Donald Trump (R) opposed Mace after she voted to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. His endorsement of Arrington focused national media attention on the race.
Mace represented South Carolina’s 99th House District from 2018 to 2020. Her campaign 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 was endorsed by former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley (R), former White House chief of staff and U.S. representative 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 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, former candidate Lynz Piper-Loomis (R) withdrew from the primary and endorsed Arrington during a debate on May 20, 2022.
Arrington 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 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 stated publicly that she was a rape victim and has advocated for federal exceptions to abortion bans in cases of rape or incest.
Mace’s response to Arrington’s criticisms was twofold. She spoke about her conservative voting record in Congress and highlighted her scorecard from the conservative nonprofit The Heritage Foundation. Additionally, she spoke about working with Democrats to pass legislation and said the district was independent. 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 described this [primary] as a bellwether for Trump’s influence. As political science professor Gibbs Knotts said, “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 Nancy Mace, as winner of the Republican primary, is also likely to win the general election.