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Former South Carolina U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham running for governor
Lowcountry Democrat lost his U.S. House re-election bid in 2020
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (CFP) — Former Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham officially launched his 2022 campaign for governor on April 26 with a broadside against the Republican establishment that has reigned supreme in Columbia for two decades.
“The challenges that we face are not because of our people. They’re because of our politicians,” Cunningham said in a video launching his campaign. “After 20 years of trying the same thing, it’s time for something different.”
Cunningham hit State House Republicans and incumbent Republican Governor Henry McMaster for focusing on new abortion and voting restrictions and loosening gun laws as residents struggled to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Governor McMaster has been cheering them on, every step of the way,” Cunningham said. “It’s embarrassing.”
And although a Democrat hasn’t won a governor’s race in the Palmetto State since 1998, Cunningham pointed to his own 2018 U.S. House win as evidence that his campaign is not a lost cause.
“To those who say a Democrat can’t win in South Carolina, well, we’ve heard that before,” he said.
Cunningham, 38, a Charleston lawyer, shocked the political world in 2018 with his win in the state’s 1st District, part of a Democratic wave that swept the party to House control.
However, he could not hold the seat in 2020, losing to Republican Nancy Mace despite raising and spending more than $7 million for the race.
With his name recognition and fundraising prowess, Cunningham will be the prohibitive favorite for the Democratic nomination to face McMaster, who will be running for his second full term as chief executive.
News of Cunningham’s candidacy drew some praise from Republican U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, who told The State newspaper that Cunningham would be “a formidable opponent.”
However, he also noted that his own re-election race in 2020 — where he won by 10 points despite $100 million in spending against him — shows that South Carolina is “still a pretty Republican state.”
Video of Cunningham’s announcement: