NORTH CHARLESTON — Chaos erupted at the Charleston County GOP meeting when attorney Lin Wood pushed conspiracy theories that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.
It was part of Wood's pitch to replace S.C. Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick next month.
Guests packed a ballroom at the Double Tree Hotel on April 12 to listen to Wood, an attorney whose party platform for South Carolina Republicans revolves around emphatically supporting Trump and calling out politicians who don't back him enough.
"I did not come to divide you," Wood said. "I came to unite you and and grow your party."
Every time Wood talked about how Trump was actually president, many in the room erupted in applause. Other stayed silent. Maurice Washington, chairman of the Charleston County GOP, interjected multiple times reminding the crowd to be respectful of opposing viewpoints when members began to shout at each other about the November election results.
Even after Wood's speech when the Charleston County GOP tried to continue their regular scheduled meeting, their agenda was interrupted and distracted by shouting and yelling from those following the attorney as he exited the hotel.
Wood's platform illustrates the schism forming among Republican organizations throughout the state, where local county GOP groups are faced with an identity crisis and split membership that many see relies on the litmus test: How loyal are you to the former president and do you believe his claims about the election?
The 75 person-suggested occupancy of the meeting room was widely ignored, as was social distancing and mask wearing, as GOP members crammed in with many opting to stand and some spilling into the hotel hallway. A few guests wore "Win With Lin" shirts and passed around pamphlets advocating for the lawyer.
Wood announced March 29 he would challenge McKissick for the chairmanship only a few months after moving to the Palmetto State from neighboring Georgia. The former Atlanta-based attorney rose to national fame last year for spearheading baseless claims of election fraud after Trump lost to Democrat Joe Biden.
After Wood ended his speech revolving around claims of voter interference, Mary Ann Taylor with the Charleston County Board of Elections stood up and reiterated that the local voting machines were not tampered with or hacked in any way.
The chairman is elected at the state party convention, which is slated for May. Many counties are holding local conventions throughout April, and Wood has made the rounds at many meetings and events to advocate for his candidacy.
Notably, Trump has endorsed McKissick since the November election. Just last month, the former president once again stated his support for McKissick after the attorney announced his plans to set-up shop in the Palmetto State.
McKissick wasn't present on April 12 due to a prior obligation, but former county party Chairwoman Cyndi Mosteller made a campaign pitch on his behalf. Under McKissick, the S.C. GOP expanded its grip on the Legislature, won back South Carolina's 1st Congressional District and helped Sen. Lindsey Graham win a fourth term.
Mosteller pointed out that Wood could make more of a difference in Georgia, which flipped blue in 2020.
"I have concerns about somebody that lives in a state just across the border from us and wants to come over and run for state party chairman," Mosteller said. "If you have an interest in your political future, go back to the one that has the problem."
Since becoming a legal South Carolina resident in February, Wood has purchased $16 million-worth of property in Beaufort County.
This past weekend when Beaufort County held their annual GOP convention, Wood was not allowed to formally speak because the bylaws only allowed for elected delegates to make speeches.
Barbara Nielson, the Beaufort County GOP spokeswoman, said she's confused by Wood's strategy and thinks the talk of election fraud is distracting from local issues.
"Republicans had a really good election year in South Carolina," Neilsen said. "But I think people are confused with things on the national level and think they're happening here."
Wood had a large number of supporters in North Charleston on April 12. After exiting the hotel, he was flocked by a crowd eager to take pictures with him and shake his hand.
"I know he didn't come here with the motivation to run for this position," Ann Beauchamp, an attendee, said. "But I'd like to see him stir things up, I think it'll be lively."
Washington said Wood has not asked to speak at their convention on April 17 but he said the attorney is welcome to do so if he wants.