A phone call between GOP congressional candidate Katie Arrington and the mayor of local beach community Isle of Palms has caused a divide over whether she made a threat or was just doing a bit of heavy-handed politics.
Isle of Palms Mayor Jimmy Carroll, who identifies as Republican, said Tuesday the call left him wondering whether Arrington would represent the coastal city fairly if she were elected to serve in Washington.
The Oct. 11 conversation came as Carroll endorsed Democrat Joe Cunningham in the 1st Congressional District race, largely over Arrington's views on offshore drilling.
"She told me that because I personally endorsed Joe, that the IOP lost its seat at the table," Carroll said, reading from prepared remarks at a Tuesday press conference.
"I can only assume that means that she doesn't plan on representing an entire city of her constituents — a threat which shouldn't be taken lightly," he said.
Arrington refuted the accusation, calling Carroll's interpretation of her words "disingenuous at best."
The point she was trying to make, she said, is that Cunningham, as a Democrat, would have no voice in the current Donald Trump White House and Republican administration.
"I was clearly referring to the fact that if Joe Cunningham is elected, our district will no longer have a seat at the table on the offshore drilling issue," she said in a statement to The Post and Courier.
She added, "As I told the mayor, the decision on granting an exclusion will be made by the Trump administration, and I have met with the president, the vice president, and senior administration officials to advocate for an exclusion for South Carolina.
"Joe sent a letter that will never be read," Arrington said.
Arrington and Carroll separately provided audio clips of their phone call to The Post and Courier — meaning each recorded the other.
The Arrington campaign sent a 55-second clip covering the "seat at the table" section, while Carroll shared audio of a nine minute, 33-second phone call.
In the longer audio, Carroll is returning a phone message from Arrington. After both exchange pleasantries about how the state narrowly missed a recent storm, the conversation turns to the endorsement and the issue of offshore drilling.
Arrington states that she is against drilling for oil off the coast of South Carolina, but Carroll pushed back.
"I really don't know you. I've heard good things about you from mutual friends, but please don't hold it against me," Carroll said.
After some cross-talk, Arrington said, "I won't hold it against the mayor, but you endorsed somebody." Later adding, "I thought you were a Republican?"
Carroll responds by saying he supports Republican Henry McMaster for governor. Arrington then tells Carroll that Nancy Pelosi has the votes to be the next speaker of the House if Democrats win, and cites a video in which Pelosi says that Democrats should "say whatever you need to win, baby."
"The way it works in Washington, what you have essentially done, is taken the Isle of Palms off the seat at the table because what's going to happen — no matter what — is Trump is going to be the president until 2020. And Joe Cunningham wrote a letter that will never be read to say something about offshore drilling," Arrington says in the call.
Arrington then reiterates she has personally met with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke and Energy Secretary Rick Perry in an effort to obtain an offshore oil exemption for South Carolina.
"I do care about the Lowcountry," she said.
The Trump administration has yet to grant an exemption to any state except for Florida. McMaster has also said he is trying to obtain an exemption for the Palmetto State after Trump lifted the ban on offshore drilling earlier this year.
In the phone call, Arrington tried to make another appeal to Carroll as to why Republican leaders like her are needed. Citing the recently passed GOP tax policy, she said Republicans care about maintaining a strong economy and, in a more local appeal, supporting tourism like "keeping Morgan Creek Grill open."
"Do you think we're closing down Morgan Creek Grill?" Carroll asked.
"No sir, but the economy is really robust right now," she said.
Carroll is one of two early Republicans from South Carolina's coast who have rejected Arrington's congressional bid over her stance on offshore drilling. The second is Tim Goodwin, mayor of Folly Beach.
Goodwin said Arrington has called him since he endorsed Cunningham. However, Goodwin said Arrington has never stated anything to him about Folly Beach losing a seat at the table in Washington.
"I don't think they want to try to insult me in that way," Goodwin said.
Offshore drilling has been a key issue in the district that spans much of the South Carolina coastline, including Isle of Palms.
Goodwin said he has little faith that the congressional race will help South Carolina get a seat at the table, regardless of who wins.
"I've had other Republicans, U.S. senators from South Carolina, and other Republican representatives who haven't really gotten us a true seat," Goodwin said.
Cunningham was additionally endorsed Tuesday by Sullivan's Island Mayor Pat O'Neil.