Incumbent Nate Leupp prevailed in a bitter battle for the chairmanship of the Greenville County, South Carolina Republican party on Monday night – although a stronger-than-expected showing from his Tea Party challenger highlighted an ongoing rift within the Upstate GOP.
Leupp defeated Greenville Tea Party leader Pressley Stutts by a 298-168 margin to win his second two-year term in office.
His win – the culmination of a nasty campaign – is perceived as a victory for the more liberal, establishment-friendly wing of the Republican party. In fact, one of Leupp’s last-minute mail pieces against Stutts slammed the Tea Party leader for criticizing fiscally liberal GOP elected officials including U.S. senator Lindsey Graham and governor Henry McMaster.
Further underscoring the rift within the party, McMaster’s opponent in last spring’s Republican gubernatorial runoff – Upstate businessman John Warren – was chosen as the honorary chairman of the county convention.
The 39-year-old former Marine gave a rousing speech to the assembled delegates, telling them “the fight is not over.”
Of interest? Sitting in the front row for Warren’s remarks was S.C. lieutenant governor Pamela Evette, McMaster’s 2018 running mate.
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Greenville represents the heart and soul of the Republican party in the Palmetto State – a conservative bulwark that delivers votes to GOP candidates en masse in statewide elections. Republican officials from Greenville also wield considerable influence within the Republican-controlled S.C. General Assembly.
Since Leupp took office, though, many conservatives say they have been made to feel unwelcome at party events – and the nasty tone of the campaign against Stutts is likely to further alienate many of these activists.
Will it matter? We shall see …
Democrats are mounting increasingly competitive electoral challenges in Greenville, although we have seen nothing to suggest a breakthrough is imminent.
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