Republicans In Congress See Warning In Mark Sanford\'s Primary Loss

In the race to be Charleston and coastal South Carolina's next member of Congress, both candidates are looking past the Lowcountry to chase campaign cash hundreds of miles away.

Republican state lawmaker Katie Arrington and Democratic construction attorney Joe Cunningham have gone, hat-in-hand, well beyond the coastal region they are hoping to represent in Washington.

Cunningham recently traveled to his home state of Kentucky, where Democrats there held a fundraiser for him last week at a brewery owned by the chair of the state's Democratic Party.

The same week, Arrington flew to Washington where U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., hosted a lunch fundraiser on her behalf.

Though the first-time congressional candidates do not have to deal with the challenge of running against an incumbent with a hefty war chest and years of name recognition, both must still contend with the pricey reality of running for political office.

According to the campaign finance watchdog, the average House race cost around $1.5 million in 2016. That's not much more than what was needed to win during the last midterm elections in 2014, when a winning House race averaged $1.4 million. 

After the June primaries, the last publicly available fundraising reports in July showed Arrington with $61,773 cash on hand, compared to Cunningham's $318,937.

Despite national attention surrounding this race when Republicans are on their heels in the House midterms, a deluge of national dollars has not yet followed: Close to 75 percent of the fundraising for both candidates has been from in-state contributions.

Neither campaign in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District race would say how much money they think they need for their candidate to win the most closely watched House race in the state.

But both are clearly angling for more.

No one is resting on history

Normally considered a GOP guarantee, Republicans note they aren't taking any chances with the district after incumbent U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford's GOP primary loss to Arrington as they seek to defend their control of the House. Democrats need to pick up 23 House races to regain control.

Already, big names in the Republican Party have taken a financial interest in Arrington's congressional bid.

The PAC for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gave Arrington $10,000, while the PAC for Majority Whip Steve Scalise gave her $5,000 and the PAC for North Carolina Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry donated $5,000.

McCarthy, who wants to replace Paul Ryan as House Speaker, was also slated to host a fundraiser with U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., for Arrington in downtown Charleston last week. Hurricane Florence evacuations, though, forced the campaign to cancel the private event that nearly the entire GOP South Carolina delegation was expected to attend. The Arrington campaign confirmed plans to hold the fundraiser at a later date.

"We're going to have resources," Arrington campaign spokesman Michael Mulé told The Post and Courier after declining to share fundraising targets. "We know folks want a conservative member of Congress in this district."

The National Republican Congressional Committee added Arrington to its Young Guns "Vanguard" program, which aims to help candidates in GOP-leaning seats. But independent expenditures show the NRCC hasn't put any money into the 1st District race this cycle — a quiet vote of confidence that they see the seat as solidly red.

"Democrats thinking they have a chance in this seat is nothing more than a pipe dream. The NRCC is confident that Katie Arrington will be a member of Congress come January," NRCC spokesperson Maddie Anderson told The Post and Courier.

Though Arrington was seriously injured in a car accident following her primary win, her campaign said she still pulled in a six-figure haul despite being in the hospital. 

'He knows what he has to do'

Democrats are doubling down on the idea that a victory here isn't the long-shot it once was.

Cunningham, who had a relatively easy Democratic primary, was the first to jump onto the airwaves this month with a biographical TV ad spot that is running district-wide.

"Our goal? Our goal is way too much money," said Cunningham campaign spokesman Tyler Jones, who also noted Cunningham has raised more than $1 million to date.

But unlike Arrington, Cunningham has pledged to reject donations from PACs. The dogma has become something of a litmus test for Democrats this election season who are campaigning on a familiar theme of change.

Jones said Cunningham has had to reject upwards of $30,000 in PAC money. "That's five days of TV," Jones explained of the financial impact it could have made.

However, there are signs that national Democrats are taking an interest in Cunningham, a first-time congressional candidate who has never run for political office.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm of House Democrats, added the race to its “Majority Makers” district list of GOP-held seats the group is targeting in the 2018 midterms.

And in another sign that Democrats see a potential victory, the DCCC added Cunningham to its coveted "Red to Blue" program, a designation that could provide a national boost and bring national dollars to his race.

But despite the promise, so far, those dollars have not yet come even as the DCCC invests millions in other races. 

DCCC spokeswoman Amanda Sherman would not say how much the group plans to spend in the South Carolina race, and instead pointed to the unique dynamics in the race as a potential pickup.

"There has not been a race where it's completely open in a year where Democratic enthusiasm is rising and even is rising among independents," Sherman said.

That could be important as the five-county district changes. In 2016, Trump bested Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in the district by 13 points. By contrast, the more moderate Mitt Romney outdid President Barack Obama in the district by 18 points.

"He's got an ambitious goal. He knows what he has to do," Sherman said of Cunningham.

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Republicans In Congress See Warning In Mark Sanford\'s Primary Loss

Source:Fox News

Republicans In Congress See Warning In Mark Sanford\'s Primary Loss