SC-1 Poll Fallout: Tom Davis Rising?

Could state senator get the endorsement of both early frontrunners?

The big news in South Carolina politics this week was the release of a new survey of Republican voters in the state’s first congressional district – which is officially the GOP’s top takeover target after it surprisingly fell into Democratic hands last fall.

The survey drew widespread media coverage – due in no small part to the fact it originated from pollster/ political strategist Robert Cahaly of the Atlanta, Georgia-based Trafalgar Group.

Cahaly has been nothing short of an oracle over the last few years – especially when it comes to races in South Carolina.

Anyway, his poll confirmed – not surprisingly – that the two candidates who battled for this nomination last spring continued to draw significant levels of support.  Former GOP nominee Katie Arrington, a 47-year-old cybersecurity expert at the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), was backed by 25.5 percent of the respondents in the poll while former congressman Mark Sanford – who was vanquished by Arrington in last June’s GOP primary election – drew the support of 23.2 percent of respondents.

As we noted in our coverage, we believe Sanford’s level of GOP support in the first district represents a hard ceiling – especially after the die-hard #NeverTrumper infuriated establishment Republicans by refusing to support Arrington in her 2018 race against Democrat Joe Cunningham.

He is literally a man without a constituency now … at least not a constituency that will get him to a majority of Republican votes in a first district GOP primary.

As for Arrington, her future could wind up being closely tied to her new job in the Pentagon – raising questions as to whether she will take another run at this seat in 2020.

So if Arrington and Sanford both decided not to run … who would they support?


Based on what we are hearing, it seems as if both candidates would wind up backing the same person – Tom Davis.

Davis – who finished in third place in Cahaly’s first district poll – is a third-term state senator from Beaufort County and the leading fiscal conservative in the S.C. General Assembly.  He is also regarded as the Palmetto State’s most influential libertarian-leaning lawmaker owing to his longtime advocacy on behalf of medical marijuana, among other issues.

Sanford has already made his support for Davis – his former gubernatorial chief of staff – abundantly clear.

When former U.S. congressman Ron Paul opined that having Davis in Washington, D.C. would be a “boost for individual liberty and limited government,” Sanford responded that Davis was “indeed … a rare gem who looks out for the taxpayer.”

Davis also reportedly received indications from Arrington several months ago that were he to seek this seat in 2020, she would not run.

We reached out to Arrington late Wednesday in the hopes of confirming these reports.  While she declined to comment on electoral politics – citing her new position at the Pentagon – she made in unmistakably clear that she is a fan of Davis.

(Click to view)

(Via: Sam Holland/ S.C. House of Representatives)

“I think Tom Davis is a sensational state senator,” Arrington (above) told us. “He has a phenomenal record of protecting tax dollars and promoting liberty.”

As we have previously noted, Davis is one of the few Republican elected officials in state government who walks the walk when it comes to the GOP’s stated support of lower taxes and less government – as evidenced by the three-year siege he fought against a regressive gas tax (among other battles).  His consistency on these issues – along with his libertarian bent – is why we preemptively endorsed him in last year’s gubernatorial race (sadly, he declined to run for that office) and why we would be hard-pressed not to do so in the event he declared himself a candidate for this seat.

Will Davis run, though?  Good question …

Even with Sanford and Arrington’s backing, Davis would still have to find a way to build a relationship with GOP voters in the Charleston area – which is where this race will be won or lost.  Also (and we believe this is the critical consideration), if he runs for congress he would have to give up his seat in the state Senate – where he is slowly but surely rising in the ranks and poised to pick up additional seniority and influence in the aftermath of the 2020 election cycle.

That is a huge risk to take for a race that will feature incredibly competitive primary and general elections …

Stay tuned … we will continue to keep close tabs on developments in the first district in the aftermath of the latest poll.



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