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Nancy Mace enters SC Congressional race against Joe Cunningham

Mace campaign announcement

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Daniel Island, highlighted her time at The Citadel in her congressional campaign announcement video released Tuesday. Mace told The Post and Courier she is running for South Carolina's 1st Congressional District because she is "the right candidate to win this seat back." Screenshot

State Rep. Nancy Mace, the barrier-breaking Daniel Island Republican who became the first woman to graduate from The Citadel Corps of Cadets, entered the 2020 race for Charleston's seat in Congress on Tuesday, expanding the field of GOP challengers to four.

In a video designed to highlight her priorities and capture some of the concerns conservative voters feel about Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham, Mace, using mild profanity, pledged to flip the district back to the GOP.

"I'm gonna win back the 1st Congressional District in 2020," Mace said in the video. "For years, I've beaten the expectations set by others — 'you can't do this, you can't do that' — you know what I say? To hell with all that." 

She went on to say “Washington is filled with politicians more worried about being someone rather than actually doing something. I’m tired of the BS and I know you are too.”

National Republicans are eager to win back control of the House next year, and see South Carolina's 1st Congressional District as a key part of that strategy. The National Republican Congressional Committee identified it as one of 55 targeted House districts they want to flip in 2020. 

Closer to home, state GOP Chairman Drew McKissick has said winning the seat back is the party’s top priority.

Mace, 41, is a state lawmaker halfway through her second term. She represents portions of Mount Pleasant, Daniel Island, the Cainhoy peninsula, Hanahan and Goose Creek. The mother of two is a real estate agent who specializes in commercial property.

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.

She does come into the race as a supporter of President Donald 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.

As a candidate, Mace supports Trump's plans on infrastructure and immigration and efforts to build a wall at the U.S.-Mexico border. She differs on his push for offshore drilling.

On Monday, USA Today published an op-ed by Mace where she called offshore drilling a danger to the economic future of the Lowcountry.

"The areas I represent — Charleston, Daniel Island, Hanahan and Mount Pleasant — have too much to lose and too little to gain from this push to drill off the coast," she said.

Three other GOP candidates have announced bids to try to unseat Cunningham: Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert; Hilton Head Island teacher Logan Cunningham (no relation to the Democratic incumbent); and, most recently, Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing.

Mace makes no mention of Cunningham by name in her announcement video. The only dig she makes at him is when she says, "Washington is filled with politicians more worried about being someone rather than actually doing something."

Asked if Cunningham is that kind of politician, Mace told The Post and Courier, "I believe so."

"It's PR stunts," she continued. "He'll have two years of a voting record that show how he's aligned with the Democratic Party. I mean, he won't even put the word Democrat on his website. He's a nice guy but he's just not the right guy."

Cunningham's campaign issued a statement doubling down on their belief that Cunningham is the best fit for the Lowcountry and cited Congressional Quarterly naming him America's most independent member of Congress.

"Nancy Mace is a professional political operative who has spent her career running for office, and it’s no surprise she kicked off her campaign by engaging in the same type of partisan mudslinging she’s been getting paid to do for over a decade," said Tyler Jones, spokesman for the Cunningham campaign.

The list of potential Republican candidates angling to challenge Cunningham could grow. Filing for the seat won't officially open until March.

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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