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Joe Cunningham launches first TV ad of general election in SC's top congressional race

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Joe Cunningham (copy)

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham released his first campaign ad of the 2020 general election on Wednesday, July 1, 2020. File/Brad Nettles/ Staff

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham released his first television ad of the general election Wednesday, a minute-long spot that highlights his handling of a tumultuous 2020, especially the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ad, which begins airing on TV and cable across South Carolina's coastal 1st District on Thursday, is called "Found a Way."

"When everything stopped, we all felt it," the Charleston Democrat says. "Businesses closed. Lives lost. Streets emptied." Images of a desolate downtown Charleston appear across the screen before cutting to the inside of a busy hospital.

"And when those same streets filled back up with anger — we felt that, too," Cunningham said as footage of protesters in downtown Charleston marched across the screen for 3 seconds.

"Thing is, when we get through this — and we will — it'll be because we worked together and found a way. That’s what I’ve tried to do in Congress," Cunningham said.

The ad then becomes a highlight reel of things Cunningham did in Congress, noting his bill to help veterans obtain their benefits was signed into law. He also mentions his House-passed effort to ban offshore drilling off South Carolina's coast, which was one of his signature 2018 campaign promises.

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The ad is also noteworthy for what it does not say, and speaks to the competitive realities of a Democrat running in a historically Republican district. Cunningham, who is running for reelection in a district where President Donald Trump won by 13 percentage points in 2016, never says he is a Democrat.

The spot also makes no mention of Cunningham's vote to impeach Trump or make note of Nancy Mace, Cunningham's Republican challenger.

Instead, it circles back to the coronavirus, noting Cunningham tested positive for the virus and that he also got a wealthy homeowners association on Kiawah Island to return a $1 million federal loan meant to help businesses and nonprofits.

Cunningham's campaign said the minute-long ad is "a significant buy." The campaign declined to provide a more specific figure, or disclose how long the ad will be on the air.

The latest available federal fundraising records show Cunningham has raised $3.7 million — almost three times what Mace has raised so far. He has $2.6 million cash on hand.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report rates the race as a tossup.

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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