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SC Democrat Joe Cunningham heads into 2020 congressional fight with hefty cash lead

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U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-Charleston, hosted his first constituents town hall of 2020 on Saturday, Jan. 11. He answered questions during the hour-long event held at the main branch of the Charleston County Library downtown. Brad Nettles/Staff

In what's expected to be one of the country's most competitive U.S. House races, South Carolina freshman Democrat Joe Cunningham enters 2020 with nearly $2.1 million in his war chest, eclipsing all five of his Republican challengers.

New federal election filings show Cunningham raised $903,606 in the last three months of 2019.

He starts the year with a nearly $1.3 million cash advantage over his closest GOP rival, state Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Daniel Island.

The fundraising figures show Cunningham is enjoying an incumbent's advantage even as he represents a district that has historically voted Republican.

Federal filings show Democrats are joining forces and dumping dollars into Cunningham's reelection. Nine different joint fundraising efforts raised a combined $413,141 for Cunningham.

House Victory Project 2020, a joint fundraising committee between Cunningham and nine other Democrats, was the largest, injecting $239,786 into Cunningham's bid.

On the Republican side, Mace is leading in the battle for campaign dollars. The first woman to graduate from The Citadel Corps of Cadets, Mace raised $340,130 between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31.

She ended the year with $712,641 cash on hand.

In December, Mace joined three Republican congressional candidates in forming the "Conservative Squad" to help reclaim GOP control of the House. Her membership in the group resulted in $3,026 in contributions, according to her federal campaign filing. 

To date, Mace has raised $819,614.

Mount Pleasant Town Councilwoman Kathy Landing raised $62,622 in the final three months of 2019, and kicked in another $50,000 loan from herself, according to her federal campaign filing.

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To date, she has shelled out $329,000 to fund her campaign.

Those dollars helped get Landing on TV first, airing an ad during the University of South Carolina-Clemson game in November.

Landing has $353,151 cash on hand, and has raised $136,240 so far in her congressional bid. 

Meanwhile, Beaufort County Councilman Mike Covert raised $22,672 during the last quarter, and reports having nearly $27,274 in cash.

Bikers for Trump co-founder Chris Cox, who posted strong fundraising numbers in the third quarter, saw a drop off in the final three months of 2019.

After raising close to $90,000 from July 1 to Sept. 30, Cox raised $17,914 and spent $33,761 during the last quarter of 2019. He ended the year with $12,613.81.

Bluffton community development leader Brad Mole, who entered the race at the end of October, received $199 from his supporters, and ended the year with $188.94 in cash.

The candidate field could still grow. Filing for the seat closes March 30.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has labeled the upcoming 2020 House race as a toss-up.

South Carolina's 1st Congressional District turned blue for the first time in nearly 40 years when voters elected Cunningham to Washington in 2018. The seat was last represented by Republican Mark Sanford.

Both Republicans and Democrats see the coastal 1st Congressional District race as a top priority in 2020, with Democrats trying to hold on to the seat and Republicans trying to reclaim it.

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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