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'No one paints Nancy in a corner': What is Mace's political future after vote to boot McCarthy?

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace arrives at her election night party following the close of polls in South Carolina's primary elections on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Meg Kinnard/AP
U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace arrives at her election night party following the close of polls in South Carolina's primary elections on Tuesday, June 14, 2022, in Mount Pleasant, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina has endorsed Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan for House speaker.

The eight Republicans who ousted now-former Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week could be key to whoever wants to be the next leader of the House.

Among the dissenters was U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace of South Carolina, who told reporters that McCarthy had broken promises to her.

"I made deals with Kevin McCarthy, with the (now-former) speaker, that he has not kept to help women in this country, and we have done nothing for them," Mace said outside the Capitol Oct. 3 after the House voted to oust McCarthy.

"And I come from South Carolina. When you shake my hand and you make a promise and you don't keep it, there are consequences to those actions," she added.

McCarthy has disputed Mace's take.

Mace's vote against McCarthy may have isolated her within her own party, and even within her own South Carolina congressional delegation.

But those, such as former S.C. House GOP Leader Gary Simrill, who served with Mace in the state Legislature, said she doesn’t always toe the party line.

"To paraphrase 'Dirty Dancing' in a cinematic way, no one paints Nancy in a corner," Simrill said. "Her views and her actions are her. They are not of a party structure. That's my view. She has a very independent streak in her viewpoints."

Mace wasn’t in the corner last week, when she fully embraced her role as the only South Carolina Republican to boot McCarthy of California.

Mace has since backed Ohio’s Jim Jordan for speaker.

The House is expected to vote Wednesday on speaker candidates Jordan and Louisiana's Steve Scalise. Reports indicate members may also nominate McCarthy.

In a Sunday interview on CBS News' Face the Nation, Mace said she endorsed Jordan because of his values, his work ethic and his "ability to run circles around everyone" on policy.

Jordan's "going to be a workhorse for our country," she said. "And I'm really looking forward to rolling up our sleeves this week, no matter how this shakes out."

Mace's independent streak has been part of her entire career.

The 45-year-old broke barriers at South Carolina’s military college, The Citadel, when she became the first woman cadet to graduate.

In 2020, Mace defeated a freshman Democrat, Joe Cunningham, to retake the coastal 1st District. Two years later, she fended off a GOP challenger, former state House colleague Katie Arrington, supported by former President Donald Trump.

And, in her party, she’s also staked out more moderate GOP positions on marijuana decriminalization and abortion, when she fought for sexual assault exceptions going back more than four years ago.

In a speech then on the S.C. House floor, Mace referenced being a victim of sexual assault as a teenager.

"When I came forward in October of 2018, I was told I could not have been a victim of sexual assault because I was a Republican," Mace, who describes herself as "pro-life," told S.C. House colleagues in April 2019. "But you've seen women who are Democrats who've come forward, and the same thing happens on the other side of the aisle and it's wrong."

Voters in her district, such as Beaufort County GOP Chairman Kevin Hennelly, said they’re used to her contrarian style.

"She marches to her own drummer," Hennelly said. "She stakes out her own position on the issues. And, sometimes, she goes to the right of where the party is and sometimes she goes to the left."

Mace told Face the Nation Sunday that she's received a positive reaction from her district.

At a Tim Scott campaign event Oct. 6 in Mace's district, reaction was mixed.

Deborah Hall, 69, who voted for Mace twice, said she was "a little appalled" by the vote but said she could understand why Mace did it. Another voter, 68-year-old voter Tamela Maxim, questioned the timing.

"We already have a divided Republican Party, and we don't need to send a message that we're even more divided," Maxim said. "So I'm sorry that that happened."

In past House bids, Mace could rely on McCarthy's fundraising prowess for help.

She might now be on her own, so Mace has started fundraising with the message of being attacked by the D.C. establishment.

Mace's district — the area will soon be under the microscope of the U.S. Supreme Court — is probably still the closest to being competitive in ruby red South Carolina.

But Hennelly said anyone who counts Mace out because of one vote should remember that many "people have very short-term memories in politics."

Gavin Jackson contributed to this report.

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) is a news reporter with South Carolina Public Radio and ETV. She worked at South Carolina newspapers for a decade, previously working as a reporter and then editor of The State’s S.C. State House and politics team, and as a reporter at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013.