While Republicans are expected to hold most of their South Carolina seats in Congress, one race where they are nervous is the First Congressional District around Beaufort and Charleston.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford was defeated by State Rep. Katie Arrington in this summer’s GOP primary. But Arrington has faced a difficult campaign from Democratic attorney Joe Cunningham since then.
Arrington, who could make history as the first female South Carolina Republican in Congress, says she will be a strong voice for the region. “A voice of someone who can get others to join along, to join us in legislation and pass real reforms in this country,” she told South Carolina Radio Network last week. “Being the first (Republican) woman is something that is there and I appreciate that, but it’s not my driving force.
The seat has been held by a Republican since 1981 but Cunningham is hoping demographics can turn it blue. He has attempted to woo any Republicans who unhappy with President Trump by painting himself as a moderate who will represent the district’s interests. Arrington has hitched herself to the president as a loyalist, a large reason she was able to defeat the more reluctant Sanford.
“You can only get that down if you go up to Washington and work with the other side,” Cunningham said during an interview with SC Radio Network. “That’s what’s missing up in D.C. And my opponent wants to go up there and essentially pour kerosene on this divide that’s going on.”
Cunningham has been able to gain a good amount of traction by criticizing Arrington as an offshore drilling supporter, even getting endorsements for several of the Republican mayors who represent the coastal communities surrounding Charleston.
Arrington has insisted she does not support drilling off the Southeast and believes any surveys would likely turn up little oil or natural gas. She said her support for drilling is focused on the Gulf of Mexico or other states.
Cunningham said he would be willing to work with President Trump on issues that could benefit the Lowcountry. “If the President wants to put together an infrastructure package that helps with that, then want to work with him on that,” he said. ‘If he wanted to open up our shores to offshore drilling, I’d oppose that.”
Arrington argues Cunningham has offered little in the way of substance beyond offshore drilling opposition. “I’m about getting the tax cuts done and my opponent absolutely thinks the tax cuts were a bad idea,” she said. “So if we want to keep our economy going and jobs going, we must vote red.”
Rep. Arrington made national headlines in June when a car she was riding in was hit almost head-on by a drunk driver. She spent two weeks recovering in the hospital after being airlifted with broken ribs and internal bleeding. Cunningham agreed to suspend his own campaign while Arrington was out of action in late June and early July.