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Democrat Joe Cunningham draws 4 GOP challengers in SC's most competitive US House race

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Election 2020 South Carolina (copy)

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham addresses the South Carolina Democratic Party Convention June 22, 2019, in Columbia. In 2018, Cunningham became the first Democrat to flip a South Carolina congressional seat in decades. File/AP

The field of candidates eager to unseat South Carolina Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham rests with four Republican contenders.

Filing for South Carolina's most competitive congressional race closed at noon Monday.

The GOP candidates are: Chris Cox, Kathy Landing, Nancy Mace and Brad Mole.

All forked over a $3,480 filing fee for the chance to become their party's standard bearer in the fall.

Before any of them can try to knock Cunningham out of Congress in November, they must first go through each other in a June 9 Republican primary.

Cunningham, who in 2018 became the first Democrat to win the seat in nearly 40 years, faces no challenges from within his own party as he seeks reelection.

The four Republicans enter the race with divergent life and political experiences.

The GOP field includes a state lawmaker, a certified genius, a man who gained national attention by cutting the grass in Washington and a Republican who admits he voted for President Barack Obama.

The slate also sets up the potential for a historic November election. Should one of the two women emerge victorious, they will be the first woman to represent the seat since 1941.

The presumed Republican field shrank last week when Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert withdrew. He instead opted to run for the Statehouse District 118 seat, representing Jasper and Beaufort counties.

None of the GOP challengers have previously held federal office, but two currently hold public office. 

Here is the current slate of Republicans running for the GOP nomination. 

Chris Cox

Chris Cox Bikers for Trump (copy)

Chris Cox of Mount Pleasant jumped into South Carolina's 1st Congressional District race. This is his first run for public office. File/Provided

Cox, 54, first rose to national attention in 2013 after he went to Washington during the government shutdown and mowed the grass near the Lincoln Memorial. For that, he became known as the "lawn mower man."

Today, the Mount Pleasant resident is better known as the co-founder of Bikers for Trump, a grassroots group that formed in support of then-candidate Donald Trump in 2015. 

Cox left his post with the group to enter the 2020 race. This is his first run for political office, but Cox has some traditional political experience outside of his grassroots organizing efforts with the bikers.

Cox worked for Vice President Dan Quayle in 1991 and later worked for the campaign of former U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole, R-N.C.

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Kathy Landing

Landing, 57, entered the race touting both her business acumen and her conservative beliefs.

Landing was first elected to Mount Pleasant Town Council in November 2017 and plans to keep her seat while running for Congress.

With more than 30 years of experience in financial planning, Landing is currently senior vice president of investments for Raymond James and Associates.

Kathy Landing Podium (copy) (copy)

Mount Pleasant Councilwoman Kathy Landing addresses supporters at her campaign kickoff event. File/Lauren Petracca/Staff

Landing has enlisted Charleston political consultant Michael Mulé to help run her campaign. Mulé worked on former state Rep. Katie Arrington's failed 2018 congressional campaign, which resulted in a historic GOP primary victory over the U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford only to lose to Cunningham in the general election by 3,982 votes. 

Landing is a descendant of one of the 102 passengers who arrived in America on the Mayflower in 1620 at what is now Plymouth, Massachusetts.

She is also a member of American Mensa, an internationally recognized society for individuals with a high IQ.

Nancy Mace

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Nancy Mace waves before Vice President Mike Pence addresses the South Carolina Corps of Cadets at McAlister Field House before The Citadel Republican Society Patriot Dinner on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020 in Charleston. File/Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

State Rep. Nancy Mace, 42, is the clear front-runner in the Republican race so far.

The Daniel Island resident has national party support and last month received the endorsement of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. When Vice President Mike Pence visited the Lowcountry last month, he recognized Mace by name.

She is also the first woman to graduate from The Citadel Corps of Cadets, and in 2018 became the first woman to represent her Statehouse district. 

Mace enters the race with ties to Trump. From September 2015 until August 2016, she worked as coalitions director and field director for the Trump campaign in South Carolina and six other states.

This is her second run for federal office after being one of several GOP candidates who tried to knock off U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in the 2014 primary.

Brad Mole

Brad Mole SC01 candidate

Republican Brad Mole, 42, is challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham for his seat in Congress. Mole said he hopes to follow in the footsteps of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., who held the seat before moving to the U.S. Senate. Provided

Mole, 42, said he wants to follow in the footsteps of U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-.S.C.

Currently the chairman of the Lowcountry Affordable Housing Coalition, Mole said he attended an event held by the Empower America Project about nine months ago with Scott.

The event was for up-and-coming minority candidates and was hosted at a time when Republicans began seeing a wave of minority congressional members announce their retirement. Mole wants to see that change.

He told The Guardian that he voted for Obama but then voted for Trump in 2016.

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

Political Reporter

Caitlin Byrd is a political reporter at The Post and Courier and author of the Palmetto Politics newsletter. Before moving to Charleston in 2016, her byline appeared in the Asheville Citizen-Times. To date, Byrd has won 17 awards for her work.

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