State House

South Carolina ‘Republican’ Loyalty Oath Drama: Twenty Conservatives Still Standing Strong

The latest on the ongoing standoff …

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Last week, multiple “Republican” leaders in the South Carolina House of Representatives fired back against criticism of a “loyalty oath” they are attempting to impose on the conservative faction of a so-called SCGOP “supermajority.”

In case you’ve missed our coverage of this issue, GOP majority leader Davey Hiott of Pickens County and S.C. speaker pro tempore Tommy Pope of Rock Hill have been attempting for weeks to force an incumbent protection racket on twenty conservative members of the caucus. Specifically, they are pushing a rule (.pdf) which states that no GOP lawmaker “shall engage in campaign activities of any kind against any other caucus member in good standing.”

The impetus for this proposed rule? The recent defeat of several influential “moderate” GOP leaders during the 2022 GOP primary elections last June.

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As I noted in my prior coverage of this issue, the loyalty oath is “a clear effort on the part of GOP leaders to insulate left-of-center establishment ‘Republicans’ from credible conservative challengers next year.” It is also a brazenly transparent bid “to prevent those on the right from gaining additional seats within the caucus.”

Also, as I have previously reported, multiple sources have confirmed that these GOP leaders were “weaponizing” this rule by adopting excessively broad interpretations of the term “campaign activities.” Among the purportedly verboten “campaign activities?” Posting images of the House’s electronic voting board on members’ social media pages – and publicly criticizing other members over the “internal processes” behind House votes.

Before I provide an update on this ongoing standoff, here is a list of the twenty GOP lawmakers who have refused to accede to the demands of their party bosses …

Thomas Beach
Mike Burns
April Cromer
Ashley Trantham
Bill Chumley
Bobby Cox
Patrick Haddon
Rob Harris
Stewart Jones
Jay Kilmartin
Steve Long
Josiah Magnuson
R.J. May III
Ryan McCabe
Adam Morgan
Alan Morgan
David O’Neil
Melissa Oremus
Jordan Pace
Joe White

First of all, props to all twenty of these lawmakers. Whether you or I agree or disagree with them on specific policies – each one of them deserves credit for standing up and refusing to be muzzled by their leaders.

Constituents of these twenty lawmakers should rest secure in the knowledge that they have elected strong, independent representatives to the S.C. State House – a place where status quo conformity continues to produce a myriad of unacceptable outcomes.

As for the rest of the S.C. House GOP “supermajority?” Not so much …

How has the “Republican” establishment responded to this show of conviction and fortitude? By accusing these lawmakers (and those standing up for them) of being either fools, liars or profiteers.

Says a lot, doesn’t it?

What is the latest on this standoff? According to my sources, GOP leaders approached the twenty holdouts – dubbed the “Freedom Caucus” – earlier this week with what was billed as a new “compromise.”

(Click to View)

S.C. speaker pro tempore Tommy Pope (Travis Bell)

“Leadership came to Freedom Caucus on Tuesday with an offer that did not make any substantive changes to the loyalty oath,” a source close to the negotiations told me. That offer was not accepted.

After a “robust debate” within the caucus, state representative John McCravy – who reportedly sympathizes with the twenty holdouts – submitted a motion that would have lifted any restrictions on members campaigning for whomever they chose to support, so long as they did not engage in “for-profit campaigning.”

According to my sources, this motion would have precluded Freedom Caucus leader RJ May III – a lawmaker who runs a political consulting firm – from being paid to run political campaigns against incumbents (May, incidentally, had previously agreed not to run campaigns against incumbent House members).

McCravy’s motion was defeated, however, by a nearly two-to-one margin.

While Pope and Hiott remain in control of the caucus, there is growing dissent over the impact the standoff is having on the GOP’s ability to govern.

“We need the Freedom Caucus in the room,” state representative Phillip Lowe reportedly told his colleagues this week.

Meanwhile representative Heath Sessions – who is leading a group of freshmen lawmakers – reportedly told Pope and Hiott “we need to resolve this.”

At the other end of the spectrum? Status quo leaders like Chris Murphy and Bill Sandifer, both of whom reportedly “referred to Freedom Caucus members as terrorists” during the most recent round of negotiations.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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2 comments

Chris Memminger January 28, 2023 at 11:46 am

That is literally a list of the least educated and least serious people in the House. Awwww, the special needs class has some ideas on how to run the school. We have heard them out now they go back to their own room where none of the toys have sharp edges..

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Failure In Kershaw Co January 28, 2023 at 1:15 pm

Too bad that Kershaw County voters foolishly chose a lukewarm conservative like Ben Connell over a solid conservative like Vic Dabney. I bet if Vic was still in office, his name would be on that list of strong conservatives with a backbone. As a bonus, Kershaw County has another lawyer legislator, long the bane of doings at the State House.

Looks like we will be stuck with a bunch of limp-wristed RINOs for some time to come.

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