The race for the Republican nomination in South Carolina’s highly competitive first congressional district has thus far been a non-event. State representative Nancy Mace has surged to an early lead – in large part because none of the other big names (like former gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton) decided to enter the fray.
Operating in what amounts to a vacuum, Mace has done a lot of things right: She has raised big money, expanded her grassroots base and drawn national attention to the district – which is one of the GOP’s top national takeover targets.
But she has done these things … again … in what amounts to a vacuum.
Mount Pleasant, S.C. town councilwoman Kathy Landing represents a potentially credible threat to Mace in the GOP primary, but she has yet to fully engage in the race (or bring her resources to bear). Meanwhile, Beaufort county councilman Michael Covert – a staunch social conservative – has yet to demonstrate he is ready for anything beyond local government squabbles (although he has been throwing a few punches in Mace’s direction in the hopes of getting some media attention for himself).
As this race begins to get more negative – and as the candidate filing deadlines approach – there is increasing speculation as to whether Templeton might be reconsidering her previous decision to remain out of this contest.
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And yes, this speculation has revived questions about a longstanding feud between Mace (above) and former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley – an ally of Templeton’s who appointed the Lowcountry labor lawyer to lead two statewide agencies.
Templeton was courted to run for the first district seat against Mark Sanford in 2016 – but declined. She was also aggressively recruited for the seat last year by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) but told the organization “no.”
“A placeholder gig in Washington, D.C. is not something that interests her,” we noted at the time.
But that was a year ago …
It is curious, then, that Templeton is now reportedly “circling the wagons,” according to one of her supporters who spoke with us on condition of anonymity.
According to another source, Templeton was recently seen “leaving a private room full of her biggest and most loyal donors” in Greenville, S.C.
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The only other office Templeton (above) might contemplate seeking in the upcoming election cycle is Lindsey Graham’s seat in the U.S. Senate. Graham has certainly pulled off the mother of all pivots, though, insulating himself from what was expected to be a certain primary challenge via his opportunistic (and hypocritical) grandstanding during the confirmation hearings for moderate U.S. supreme court justice Brett Kavanaugh.
After the Kavanaugh hearing, Templeton explained her refusal to run against Graham despite aggressive overtures from the conservative wing of the party.
“I’m sure that anyone who would take on Lindsey for this next election would be doing it solely for egotistical reasons at this point because it would only hurt this state if Lindsey wasn’t up there,” she told reporter Jamie Lovegrove of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier. “He’s proven again that he delivers for this state and for the Republican Party.”
But that was two years ago …
So why is she making the rounds again meeting with donors?
One of Templeton’s backers who later donated to the campaign of S.C. governor Henry McMaster told us she was “all in for McMaster and is making sure her support for him is clear.”
Recent twitter activity would seem to confirm this …
When we last checked in on Templeton, reports were that she was teaming up with Upstate businessman John Warren – whose political plans are being closely watched in light of his recent business moves.
Could Templeton and Warren run on a ticket in 2022?
“His money and her personality, Greenville and Charleston, military and business … they are unbeatable,” one of Templeton’s backers said. “Of course, one of them would have to be Lt. Governor, but she has given that role consideration in the past.”
If Templeton were to decide to jump into the first district race, money would obviously not be an issue. She has proven she can raise it, and her top financial backers are clearly still in her corner. Obviously, Mace would constitute a formidable GOP rival in light of her head start on multiple fronts – and the fact she has a compelling personal narrative that national Republicans are eager to invoke in Washington, D.C.
But if anyone could make a race of it, it would be Templeton …
“Beautiful, brilliant and infinitely well-connected, were she to jump into this race she would immediately become one of the top contenders,” we noted during the initial round of speculation regarding Republican contenders for this seat.
Cunningham continues to benefit from massive financial support from liberal interests, all of which (ironically) is being pumped into ads touting how moderate he is. Meanwhile, national ads targeting Cunningham for his impeachment vote have been … ineffective.
Stay tuned … we will keep our readers updated in the event we receive any new information regarding the recent meetings Templeton has held with her donors.
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