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Primary elections gear up as South Carolina filing opens

Russell Fry, Katie Arrington
Meg Kinnard/AP
/
AP
State Rep. Russell Fry, left, and former state Rep. Katie Arrington, right, cheer as former President Donald Trump holds a rally, Saturday, March 12, 2022, in Florence, S.C. Trump has endorsed Fry and Arrington in their primary challenges to two sitting House Republicans in neighboring districts who have been critical of him. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

Filing opened Wednesday for South Carolina's 2022 primary elections, some of which are shaping up to be competitive intraparty contests featuring Republican incumbents fending off challengers backed by former President Donald Trump.

All candidates for state, federal and local offices must file their candidacy in the two-week window, which closes March 30 at noon. South Carolina's primary elections are held June 14.

The two most closely watched congressional seats are along South Carolina's coast, where U.S. Reps. Tom Rice and Nancy Mace are seeking reelection with bull's-eyes on their backs, targeted by Trump for behavior he has characterized as disloyal to him. Rice was one of 10 House Republicans to vote for Trump's second impeachment last year. Mace drew the former president's ire by voting to certify President Joe Biden's win in the 2020 election, as well as frequent television appearances in which she blamed Trump for the Jan. 6 insurrection.

A dozen potential challengers floated bids against Rice in the aftermath of his vote to impeach Trump, although he expects to face only a handful in the primary. Trump campaigned Saturday for one of them, state Rep. Russell Fry, calling Rice — of the 7th District — "a disaster" who is "laughed at in Washington" and "respected by no one."

That same rally featured Katie Arrington, who is challenging Mace for the GOP nomination in the 1st District. The former state House representative successfully knocked off incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Sanford but lost the general election to Democrat Joe Cunningham.

On Saturday, Trump said Mace — whom he backed in 2020 — is "crazy" and "a terrible person" who "has no idea what she's doing."

Rice and Mace have brought in $1.3 million and $3 million, respectively, while Fry has raised $351,000. Arrington, who announced her campaign last month, has not posted fundraising totals.

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats are squaring off for the opportunity to face Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, who is seeking his second full term in office.

Joe Cunningham, the former congressman who lost his 2020 reelection campaign, is seeking the Democratic nomination. Another Democrat, state Sen. Mia McLeod, planned to file her paperwork Wednesday.

As of the end of last year, McLeod had raised $359,000, compared with Cunningham's more than $1.3 million.

Two other Republicans have announced their intentions to challenge McMaster, although neither has reported any fundraising. Earlier this year, Greenville businessman John Warren announced he wouldn't seek a primary rematch against mcMaster, whom he forced into a runoff in 2018. If he wins a second term, McMaster would become the longest-serving governor in South Carolina history.

As of the end of 2021, McMaster had amassed nearly $4.5 million in contributions.

Seeking what he has said will be his final term, U.S. Sen. Tim Scott has taken in $38 million for his reelection campaign, according to federal records. Two other Republicans have filed federal paperwork, but neither has reported fundraising.

A handful of Democrats have announced their intent to run against Scott, including state Sen. Krystle Matthews, who has reported $66,000 in fundraising, according to federal records.

Further down the ballot, there is a competitive GOP primary in the race for the state's top education slot, given the impending retirement of Superintendent Molly Spearman. School-choice advocate Ellen Weaver has raised more than $125,000 and has backing from two former superintendents.

All of South Carolina's state House seats are up for reelection, but senators don't face voters until 2024.

___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.