House candidate promotes Trump ties in TV ad


COLUMBIA (AP) - With less than two months until South Carolina primary voters select a Republican challenger they hope can take back the congressional seat Rep. Joe Cunningham flipped in 2018, the leading candidate has released a campaign ad promoting what she calls a close relationship with the Trump administration.

State Rep. Nancy Mace's TV ad, provided Tuesday to The Associated Press, highlights that she was the first woman to graduate from The Citadel. The 30-second spot also mentions her work on President Donald Trump's 2016 campaign and pledges that she will help him "take care of our veterans" if elected to Congress.

Mace, one of four Republicans competing in the June primary, has secured backing from national Republican groups, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Vice President Mike Pence, who gave her campaign verbal support during a visit to The Citadel this year. The ad includes video from that appearance, with Pence calling her "an American with an extraordinary lifetime of accomplishments, past, present and future."

Republicans are focusing intently on ousting Cunningham, a freshman Democrat who was the first in decades to flip a South Carolina seat from red to blue.

Just a month after that election, state Republican Chairman Drew McKissick told AP that he would hire full-time staff to hone in on Cunningham, whose narrow defeat of GOP candidate Katie Arrington he called "the biggest disappointment" on that year's general election ballot.

Arrington also had served in South Carolina's House and played up Trump administration ties, but some experts argued that perceptions about her evolving stance on off-shore drilling -- to which many in the coastal area are opposed - cost Arrington the seat. Mace is publicly opposed to opening the state's waters to drilling.

Trump carried the 1st District by 13 points over Hillary Clinton in 2016, although populous Charleston County is becoming more liberal, potentially making the district a political quagmire in a state full of more solidly red districts.

Mace told AP that her 30-second spot would begin running Wednesday in a six-figure buy across multiple cable and satellite networks. She's not the only Republican challenger on the air in SC-01, where Mount Pleasant Councilwoman Kathy Landing last week said she was spending six figures to run her own TV ad on Fox News until the June primary.

Officials with congressional campaigns across the country have said that first-quarter reports, out this month, will likely only show slight affects of a possible larger dent on fundraising due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Mace reported raising more than $280,000 in the first quarter of 2020, with $800,000 cash on hand. She said she has taken in $1.2 million over the course of her campaign. Other candidates have not publicly announced their hauls.

Other Republicans seeking to challenge Cunningham - unopposed in his own primary - are Bikers for Trump co-founder Chris Cox and Bluffton community developer Brad Mole. South Carolina officials haven't announced whether they could delay or alter the June 9 vote, despite calls by Cunningham, who is recovering from COVID-19 - to do so.