Joe Wilson endorses Trump-backed challenger in primary against Mace
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) on Thursday endorsed South Carolina Republican Katie Arrington’s challenge to Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.), wading into a contentious primary battle centered around loyalty to former President Trump.
Wilson, making the unusual move of intervening in a primary against an incumbent in his home state, said he is backing Arrington because she is a “proven fighter.”
“As murderers and enemies of freedom grow emboldened by the feeble leadership of the Biden Administration, Washington needs more people who understand the significant implications of a weak America on the world stage. That’s why I am endorsing Katie Arrington for Congress in South Carolina’s 1st district,” Wilson said in a statement.
The endorsement marks the latest salvo in one of the ugliest 2022 primaries for House Republicans.
Trump already endorsed Arrington in February, panning Mace as disloyal over past votes and setting up a debate over what it means to be a Republican today.
While Mace, who was elected in 2020, never voted to impeach Trump, she did blame the former president for the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol. She also did not object to certifying the results of the 2020 election and voted to refer a criminal contempt case against Trump ally Stephen Bannon to the Justice Department after he shirked a subpoena from the House committee investigating the insurrection.
Arrington, who has embraced the unproven conspiracy theory that the 2020 presidential race was rigged, has hit Mace over those votes, while the congresswoman insists she voted in line with the Constitution and touts her past ties to Trump, including her support of him in 2016.
“I remember in 2015 when President Trump announced his run, I was one of his earliest supporters. I actually worked for the campaign in 2016. I worked at seven different states across the country to help get him elected,” Mace said in a video standing in front of Trump Tower in New York right after the former president endorsed Arrington in February. “I supported him again in 2020 because of policies I believed in.”
Mace also boasts her own supporters from Trump’s administration, including Nikki Haley, a former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador under Trump, and Mick Mulvaney, a former House member from South Carolina who served as Trump’s chief of staff.
Mace has also made electability a cornerstone of her argument against Arrington, who won the GOP nomination in 2018 only to lose to former Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.).
“If you want to lose this seat once again in the midterm election cycle to Democrats, then my opponent is more than qualified to do just that,” Mace said in February, though the seat is anticipated to stay in Republican hands this year regardless due to the overwhelmingly favorable GOP environment.
In a statement Thursday, Mace’s campaign took aim at both Wilson and Arrington over a bill the state House passed in 2017, when Arrington was a state lawmaker, that proposed a motor fuel user fee.
“Joe Wilson is the reason we need term limits in Congress. Conservative groups rate him the most liberal Republican Congressman from South Carolina. Of course he endorses the most liberal Republican in the primary, who voted to for the largest tax increase in SC history,” said Austin McCubbin, Mace’s campaign manager.