Democrats in 5th U.S. House District will decide fate of Archie Parnell after spouse abuse revelations
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
CHARLESTON (CFP) — Governor Henry McMaster and two of his GOP opponents will jockey for runoff spots in South Carolina’s Republican primary Tuesday, while U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford will try to hang on to his seat against a Republican primary challenger who has made his critical comments about President Donald Trump an issue in the race.
Republicans in the 4th U.S. House District will also cull down a staggering field of 12 candidates vying for the party’s nomination for an open seat, while in the 5th District, Democrat Archie Parnell will find out if his own party will abandon him over revelations about spousal abuse from four decades ago.
Polls are open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
In the governor’s race, recent polling shows McMaster — who inherited the office last year when Nikki Haley became UN ambassador — appears likely to snag one of the top two runoff spots but fall short of the outright majority he needs to avoid a runoff.
The chase for the second spot is between Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney who served in two state executive positions under Haley, and John Warren, a Greenville businessman and Iraq war veteran making his first run for political office.
McMaster and Templeton have both been competing for the imprimatur of the popular Haley, who appointed Templeton to head both the state health and labor departments and served for two years with McMaster as lieutenant governor before leaving for New York.
Haley, who is barred by federal law from getting involved in partisan political campaigns while serving in the executive branch, has remained neutral. But on her campaign website, Templeton features a quote from Haley calling Templeton a “great professional who hasn’t just been good at anything, she’s been great at everything.”
Warren has become the dark horse in the race, putting in more than $3 million of his own money to be financially competitive with McMaster and Templeton.
The Democratic governor’s race also appears headed to a runoff, with three candidates bunched together in pre-election polls. The field includes State Rep. James Smith from Columbia, Phil Noble, a Charleston business consultant who was an adviser to former President Barack Obama, and Marguerite Willis, a Florence lawyer and wife of former longtime Florence Mayor Frank Willis.
The two two finishers in both races will compete in June 26 runoffs. Also for the first time this year, candidates for governor have selected running mates for lieutenant governor, rather than having the office elected independently.
In the 1st U.S. House District, which includes Charleston and the Lowcountry along the Atlantic Coast, Sanford is facing a strong primary challenge from Republican State Rep. Katie Arrington, who has made Sanford’s previous comments about Trump an issue.
Sanford has been one of the few Republicans in Congress to speak out against the president, calling his behavior in office “weird,” criticizing Trump’s disparagement of Haiti and countries in Africa and calling his policy of imposing tariffs on steel and aluminum “an experiment with stupidity.”
In an era in which anti-establishment outsiders often have the upper hand, Sanford is also a consummate insider, having served 14 years in the House and two terms as governor.
However, Sanford has also proven himself a political survivor, battling his way back to Congress in 2012 after his second term as governor spiraled down in scandal amid public revelations about an extramarital affair with an Argentinian lover.
In one of her ads, Arrington directly alluded to the scandal: “Bless his heart, but it’s time for Mark Sanford to take a hike — for real this time,” a reference to a lie Sanford told to the media that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail when he was actually out of the country with his paramour.
The winner of the Republican primary will likely face Democrat Joe Cunningham, a Charleston attorney who has raised more than $500,000 in a bid to flip the 1st District seat.
In the 5th District, which stretches from the Columbia suburbs north toward Charlotte, Parnell is now trying to a survive a Democratic primary that had once looked like a sure thing, after divorce records came to light three weeks ago revealing that he physically abused his first wife in the 1970s.
Democratic leaders have urged Parnell to quit, but he refused. He faces three little-known candidates — one of whom is a professional circus clown — which should insure Parnell at least a place in a runoff if he can’t win the nomination outright.
In a special election last year to fill the seat vacated when Mick Mulvaney became Trump’s budget director, Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs executive, shocked the political world by coming in just 2 points behind Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, in a district Trump carried by 19 points in 2016.
Based on the closeness of the special election, Parnell raised more than $3.6 million for the rematch, putting him in the top 20 nationally among House candidates. But the abuse allegations probably extinguished any hopes Democrats had of defeating Norman and flipping the seat.
Norman drew national headlines in April when he pulled out a loaded gun during a meeting with gun control advocates at a local diner. The incident came less than two months after the massacre at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
Norman defended his actions, saying he was “tired of guns being demonized.”
Upstate in the 4th District, which includes Greenville and Spartanburg, 12 Republicans are running for the seat being given up by the retiring U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, virtually ensuring a runoff.
Among the competitors are former State Senator Lee Bright from Spartanburg, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham in a GOP primary in 2014; State Senator William Timmons from Greenville; Josh Kimbrell, a Christian radio host from Spartanburg; and State Rep. Dan Hamilton from Greenville.
On the Democratic side of the ballot, five candidates are competing for runoff spots including Brandon Brown, a college administrator from Greenville; J.T. Davis, a Simpsonville businessman; Eric Graben, a Greenville attorney; Will Morin from Greenville, a former trainer for the U.S. Olympic luge team; and Lee Turner, a Greenville tax accountant.