Mace braces for personal, potent primary amid GOP backlash

Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C., is likely to face a difficult primary fight, which could include her former chief staff. This reflects how polarizing she has become as a public figure in her native South Carolina.

Mace, who is a resilient candidate, defeated a primary opponent backed by the former President Trump.

This year’s challenges come from a variety of sources, some of which are very personal.

Alex Stroman is a former executive for the South Carolina GOP. He said, “I’m not sure if South Carolinians or those of us in the Lowcountry know what she stands for, for whom she stands, or against. It depends on the day.”

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“Nancy Mace is discovering that if you are a weathervane and… you’re inconsistent from Monday to Wednesday, then the voters will respond accordingly. They may look at other options or look for consistency.”

Mace’s outspokenness, and willingness to go against the party establishment in recent months has caused fury among the GOP. This was evident last fall, when Mace joined seven other Republicans in removing then-House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R – California). The result was weeks of turmoil as Republicans tried to find a new replacement.

A recent Politico article claims that McCarthy’s allies are now recruiting a primary opponent.

Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who led eight Republicans to remove McCarthy, said: “Kevin is looking for payback. The fiction here is that he will do better in South Carolina’s Lowcountry than in Washington, D.C.

Mace, who was elected to Congress for the first time in 2020, has tried to establish herself as an outlier within her own party. She told The Hill that she felt “like I’m on a desert island”. She has also been vocally critical of Republican Party stances regarding gun safety and abortion.

Katie Arrington, an ex-state legislator who was supported by the former president and had criticized Trump’s policies, challenged her in a primary election in 2022. Mace beat her and won reelection.

Mace’s former allies are now threatening her in this cycle. Republican critics say that Mace’s on-and-off-again support of Trump, and her tendency to be in the spotlight are reasons why she should not be re-elected.

Chip Felkel is a Republican strategist who is not in the race for the House of Representatives. He said: “No one begrudges a candidate airtime. But she seems to only be focused on her Fox TV hit. Members of Congress are required to serve constituents, to be in their district and to attend events.”

Mace’s policy record has been cited by others as a key example.

“We need someone who is a conservative and who does not flip-flop just for the sake of fame,” said Catherine Templeton. She announced her primary campaign against Mace Monday. Arrington endorsed Templeton later.

Mace, a Republican who has been critical of their handling on abortion, has said that the party must be “pro-woman and prolife”.

She also voted in favor of an amendment last summer to the annual Defense Policy legislation that would have prevented service members from receiving reimbursements by the Pentagon if they left their home state to get an abortion. Mace explained that the Senate wouldn’t include it in the final bill anyway.

Mace’s connections with the former President have also been a source of controversy. She worked on his campaign in 2016, but criticized him after the Capitol riot of Jan. 6, 2021. She also voted for former Trump advisor Stephen Bannon to be held in contempt by the House Subpoena. She has endorsed Trump as president in advance of the November election.

Mace has also been the subject of some bad press.

The Daily Beast reported this week that the entire staff of her D.C. offices had changed since November. Gabrielle Lipsky is a Mace spokesperson who mocked an article published on X (formerly Twitter) with the following: “BREAKING – Former Staffers With Inflated Pride, Begin Revenge Tour Against Members Who No Longer Need Them[.] Give me a rest. lmao.”

In a recent post on X, Mace dismissed Templeton by calling him “nothing but a puppet of Kevin McCarthy’s bitter vengeance operation”.

Sources close to Templeton’s campaign dispute the notion that McCarthy was the driving force behind the former official of a state agency’s candidacy. Source: Although Templeton met with someone in McCarthy’s circle late last year she was recruited to run for the district several times before and wanted to wait to have her children older.

Mace’s former Chief of Staff Daniel Hanlon who she dismissed last year has also filed paperwork to run for the primary.

Sources on the Mace Campaign said that Templeton’s campaign would be “a repeat of the 2018 governor’s race”.

Sources also refuted the notion that Mace had flipped-flopped, pointing out her votes to declare Bannon as contemptuous as well as to move to declare Hunter Biden as contemptuous as proof of Mace’s “consistent track record”. Source also claimed Mace turned down more media appearances than she did.

Source also defended Mace’s support of Trump in this election cycle, saying that “this really is about the future of the country” and their previous disagreements are “water under the Bridge.”

Some Republicans think primary challenges in Congress aren’t necessarily bad.

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C. said that competition is good on all levels. “That is what makes our process unique.”

Dave Wilson, a longtime GOP strategist, said Mace has “always drawn challengers” because she is a force to be reckoned with.

He said she would need to explain to voters her recent record.

The voters of the 1st Congressional District will ask, “Are you being obstructionist just to be obstructionist?” “Or do you have a reason for your actions?” he asked.

The National Republican Congressional Committee will still support her despite her vote to oust McCarthy. The Hill reported that NRCC is an incumbent-driven organization and supports all current GOP members.

McCarthy’s influence on the primary is also yet to be seen, although some Republicans doubt it will harm her.

I think people are not respectful when someone from outside the district tells people in their own district what to do.