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2 coastal Republicans back Democrat Joe Cunningham over Katie Arrington

Joe Cunningham

Democratic congressional candidate Joe Cunningham on Tuesday received the endorsement of two coastal Republicans. The mayors said it boiled down to his clear stance on offshore drilling. Provided.

Two Republicans from South Carolina's coast are rejecting GOP candidate Katie Arrington in her congressional run, instead endorsing Democrat Joe Cunningham for his objection to offshore drilling.

The two mayors, Tim Goodwin of Folly Beach and Jimmy Carroll of Isle of Palms, said their support boiled down to a key issue facing the 1st Congressional District: the threat of offshore drilling.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced plans to open nearly all coastal areas in the United States for offshore oil and gas exploration. Florida's coastline was the only one granted an exception.

Arrington, in a Beaufort League of Women Voters forum earlier this year, said she supported President Donald Trump lifting the ban on offshore drilling.

But in a new statement provided to The Post and Courier on Tuesday after the Cunningham support was announced, Arrington said she does not support drilling for oil off of the coast of South Carolina — her first public break with the president since she launched her campaign last year.

"I support the repeal of Barack Obama's arbitrary restrictions on domestic energy exploration. I do not support drilling for oil off of South Carolina's coast. While there are those who are using scare tactics to politicize this issue, the Trump administration simply reversed the Obama administration's national policy," Arrington said.

Her comment in Beaufort, though, was enough to send Carroll and Goodwin across that aisle to endorse the Democrat. 

"Katie Arrington's support for offshore drilling is simply a deal-breaker for me," Carroll said in a statement.

Goodwin said Folly Beach's economy depends on people visiting their beaches.

"Katie Arrington's support for offshore drilling puts the future of our community in serious jeopardy," he said.

Municipal races in South Carolina tend to be nonpartisan, but both Goodwin and Carroll identify as Republicans.

The coastal congressional district spans from Hilton Head Island to McClellanville. 

Cunningham, an attorney and former ocean engineer, welcomed the support from the pair of Republicans. He also doubled down on his opposition to offshore drilling.

"Rep. Arrington's support for offshore drilling in the Lowcountry is downright unconscionable. We can't afford to have a congressman who would put our pristine beaches and tourism economy in such jeopardy," Cunningham said in a statement.

Arrington, a one-term state lawmaker from Summerville, last week secured her party's nomination when she defeated incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford in the Republican primary.

Carroll said he originally supported Sanford in the race.

A centerpiece of Arrington's campaign has been her allegiance to Trump. However, not all Republicans who are vocal supporters of the president necessarily stand with him on offshore drilling.

Gov. Henry McMaster, who two years ago became the first and highest ranking state official in the country to back the Trump campaign,  has repeatedly pushed the White House to exempt South Carolina from offshore drilling.

Reach Caitlin Byrd at 843-937-5590 and follow her on Twitter @MaryCaitlinByrd.

Senior Politics Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is the senior politics reporter at The Post and Courier. An award-winning reporter, Byrd previously worked as an enterprise reporter for The State newspaper, where she covered the Charleston region and South Carolina politics.

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