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Lowcountry Democratic lawmaker announces challenge to Republican Sen. Tim Scott in 2022

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Rep. Krystle N. Matthews, D-Ladson, speaks in the S.C. Statehouse lobby as a group of Democrats walk out during debate on an abortion ban bill in Columbia on Feb. 17, 2021. File/Sean Rayford/Special to The Post and Courier

Democratic state Rep. Krystle Matthews will challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in 2022, announcing a long-shot bid against the GOP incumbent.

Matthews, whose House District 117 includes parts of Ladson, Goose Creek and North Charleston, became the first woman to represent the area after her successful bid in 2018. The Berkeley County resident hopes to unseat Scott in what he has publicly said will be his last run for Senate. 

“This campaign isn’t about the GOP or the DNC," Matthews said in a statement to The Post and Courier. "It’s about the mother in Charleston struggling to pay rent and put food on the table. It’s about the grandfather in Greenville working weekends at Walmart because he doesn’t have any other choice. It’s about the Lowcountry shop owner whose store floods every king tide and the Midlands graduate who can’t pay her student loans because she can’t get a job."

A formal announcement for her campaign is scheduled April 13 at the Statehouse in Columbia. She has no plans to resign her House seat during her bid, a spokesman said. 

Matthews will face an uphill battle against Scott. South Carolina delivered crushing blows to most Democrats during the 2020 election, including for U.S. Senate, where Democrat Jaime Harrison's record-shattering $130 million fundraising haul still wasn't enough to unseat GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham. 

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State Rep. Krystle Matthews, D-Ladson, speaks to fellow lawmakers in Columbia on March 3, 2021. Matthews is mounting a bid to unseat Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott. File/Jeffrey Collins/AP

Matthews wasn't taking additional press calls but earlier told The Associated Press her strategy is to register 150,000 new Democratic voters across South Carolina to help close the gap. 

In 2018, Matthews replaced state Rep. William E. Crosby, a four-term GOP incumbent, winning by 7 percentage points. In 2020, the margins were a little tighter. Matthews defeating challenger Jordan Pace 52 percent to 47 percent.

The 40-year-old single mother of five from Sandusky, Ohio, has worked as an engineer at Boeing since 2008 and has advocated for the working class in her district. In early campaign promotional material shared on her 2022 website, Matthews' tagline reads "One Tough Mother."

"As a single parent in a pandemic, as a woman in America, I know what it means to push forward against the greatest of odds," Matthews said in a campaign video posted to her website. "South Carolina deserves better." 

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A fundraising bid against Scott will require help and assistance outside the Palmetto State. Matthews told AP she expects it to be somewhere in the ballpark of $10 million to $20 million to help fuel the campaign. 

Scott, on the other hand, has already found some early, and powerful, support for his 2022 bid. 

Former President Donald Trump said the junior senator from South Carolina has his “complete and total endorsement” in a statement issued by the Save America PAC on March 2.

The GOP senator has been seen as a rising star in the party even as it faces an identity crisis following Trump’s tenure in the White House.

Election 2022-Senate-South Carolina

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., accompanied by Republican senators speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on June 17, 2020. State Rep. Krystle Matthews, a Democratic state lawmaker is mounting a bid to unseat Scott. File/Andrew Harnik/AP

Speculation continues to grow whether Scott will be in the conversation for the White House in 2024. He is scheduled to be in Davenport, Iowa, on April 15 as other GOP hopefuls begin to lay early groundwork in the state. 

A campaign spokesman for Scott did not immediately have comment regarding Matthews' announcement.

Scott ended 2020 with $8 million in his campaign war chest, according to the Federal Election Commission.

Reach Thomas Novelly at 843-937-5713. Follow him @TomNovelly on Twitter. 

Thomas Novelly is a political reporter based in Charleston. He also covers the military community and veterans throughout South Carolina. Previously, he wrote for the Courier Journal in Kentucky. He is a fan of Southern rock, bourbon and horse racing.

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