COLUMBIA — The chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus is coming to South Carolina later this month to rally Republicans at the state party's marquee annual fundraising dinner.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., will headline the 2018 Silver Elephant event on July 27 in Columbia, according to S.C. GOP officials, bringing one of the foremost conservative players in Trump's Washington to the Palmetto State.
As the leader of Congress' most hard-line conservatives, Meadows has carved out a critical role in the House in recent years. With enough members in the Freedom Caucus to tank any initiative by House GOP leaders that doesn't have Democratic support, Meadows holds the key to many of Congress' most vexing disputes.
The position has also elevated Meadows to a national profile and put him in regular contact with President Donald Trump. South Carolina GOP chairman Drew McKissick said the state party is proud to host a congressman who "has taken a front seat in defending conservative principles."
The visit comes at a precarious time for Meadows as he handles the aftermath of one of his own caucus members losing their recent Republican primary in South Carolina.
Since U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, R-Charleston, lost to state lawmaker Katie Arrington of Summerville in the June 12 GOP primary, Trump has repeatedly attacked Sanford as a "nasty guy" who he never liked.
Trump, who tweeted his support of Arrington hours before polls closed, privately mocked Sanford for his loss in a closed-door House GOP conference meeting and then publicly attacked the congressman again in a Cayce rally last week. The president has also tweeted criticism of Sanford multiple times.
The intra-party fire has angered rank-and-file members of the Freedom Caucus, some of whom have reportedly been upset that the group has not mounted a more fulsome defense of Sanford.
Meadows has sought to mediate the dispute, offering support for Sanford while avoiding any comments that could further aggravate Trump. He attributed Trump's comments to "bad political advice." The Freedom Caucus put out a group statement last week reiterating their support of Sanford and praising him for his "willingness to put constitutional principles ahead of the party line."
Two other South Carolina Republicans are members of the Freedom Caucus: U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, and U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill.
The speaker at last year's Silver Elephant dinner was U.S. Sen. Cory Garner, R-Colo. Other previous speakers include Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Reince Priebus, the former Republican National Committee chairman and White House chief of staff.
General admission tickets for the dinner cost $99. Attendees can pay $159 to get access to a VIP reception beforehand.