By Gregg Bragg, The Island Eye News Senior Staff Writer
The Republican Party was dominant in South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District for 40 years, until Democrat Joe Cunningham posted a narrow win over a White House backed opponent in 2018.
Nancy Mace said she wants the seat back, and, if a fundraiser headlined by Vice President Mike Pence on July 21 is any indication, so does the rest of the party.
“It was deeply humbling to be back at the Citadel, the place that literally changed the course of my life, and to have the vice president of the United States be there for our campaign. This is one of the top seats nationally for Republicans. He was there because it’s that important. Traditionally, this district has been an independent voice. … and that’s what I offer and why you see so much enthusiasm for my campaign,” Mace said.
“We won the primary with four people in the race, but we won it by 31 points,” she added. “I raised almost $2 million during the primary, a record for anyone running in a primary for Congress ever in the history of South Carolina. I’ve been breaking barriers my entire life.”
Mace was born at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and grew up in Goose Creek. She was among a group of four female cadets admitted to the Citadel in 1996, while her father was commandant of the Corps of
Cadets. Mace went on to become the first woman to graduate from the Corps in 1999, receiving a degree in business administration. She subsequently earned a master’s in journalism and mass communication from the University of Georgia and represents District 99 in the South Carolina House of Representatives.
Mace is concerned about getting jobs back in the Lowcountry. She said the unemployment rate in Charleston County was 1.86% before the coronavirus, a statistic she would like to reclaim. She also noted that COVID-19 has laid bare some problems with health care in coastal Carolina.
“Our health care system is burdened by excessive regulations from the federal, state and local level government. It hinders our ability to swiftly react with widespread rapid testing or enough hospital beds or nursing home beds or getting a vaccination. Those regulations by the federal government have hampered our ability to respond faster. We shouldn’t have to temporarily remove certificate of need laws to get beds in this country. That’s what the governor had to do when COVID started. So I’ve been a champion for these kinds of reforms … that burden us during COVID-19,” said Mace.
Asked about how well she thinks the White House is responding to COVID-19 and if she was comfortable sending her kids back to school, Mace said, “I want to see what the data looks like as we get closer. We, personally, have not made this decision. If you’d asked me a month ago, my decision would be different than it would be now. I had COVID-19, one of my kids got it and the other was exposed. There are a lot of things at play. People with kids in school have to work, sometimes two jobs, to put food on the table, and some of those may not be able to afford child care to do that. And we have special needs children, we have thousands of children across the state of South Carolina that we haven’t heard from since COVID-19 started, so we’ve got to find a way to help those vulnerable populations.”
“I like the idea of having options to go to other schools. Some schools may want to have a hybrid solution, vouchers for vulnerable families to send their kids to other schools because the ability to work virtually may not be available to a lot of people,” she added.
“I like what the administration is doing right now, to really hammer home to wear a mask, to social distance, because, when all this started, Fauci got out there and said masks were worthless and didn’t work. When he did that, he sowed the seeds of the skepticism and division over the mask issue, and now it’s been politicized. What I’ve tried to do as a mother and as a state lawmaker is show how important it is to protect ourselves because it is a serious illness for some people,” Mace went on to say.
Consequently, Mace doesn’t see COVID-19 as a predicament for the administration so much as it is for Dr. Fauci.
“He’s even admitted he lied to the American people. This is why government mandates fail. When the federal government decides to lie to you, people don’t believe it. There are some people that think this illness is a hoax. Right now we’re having a huge outbreak, and we all need to do our part to stay home or, when we are at work, to stay covered up, to wash our hands and to stay distant from each other. I held a meeting yesterday with 40 to 50 people. They were all masked up, 6 feet apart, everyone doing their part. It’s time for us to set an example for other people so that at some point our kids can go back to school safely and people can go back to work and feel safe in their communities and that’s what this is about,” said the candidate.
Mace is confident that the 2018 win for Democrats in the 1st Congressional District was an aberration and not an indication of the district drifting toward the center.
“This election really isn’t about Congressman Cunningham or even about me,” Mace said.
“This is about the direction of the Lowcountry; it’s about the direction of our nation. As a mother, I really worry about my children’s future right now. And that’s everything from how will they be educated to how do I keep them healthy to how do I keep them safe. I know that’s why we’re going to win in November, because I’ve been a truly independent voice. My opponent has only talked about being an independent voice,” Mace said.
Mace said she would like to see offshore drilling and exploration forbidden along the East Coast, but she pointed out that such a federal mandate is impossible. She said the reason no one from the South Carolina congressional delegation voted in favor of Cunningham’s legislation is it was a “gimmick” with no chance of success.
“The only way you are going to get Republicans on board with banning drilling along the coast of the Atlantic at this juncture is to ensure that states have a say. I know how to get work done in a bipartisan way because I’ve been doing it as a state lawmaker. I’m not the kind of person who files a bill because it looks good on paper; I actually get something done,” she said, citing a prison reform bill she sponsored in Columbia.
Despite subtly nuanced messaging on some issues, Mace remains staunchly conservative on such bellwether issues as gun control and abortion. She thinks Dylann Roof was able to get a firearm more because data on criminal records is housed in disparate locations than because of the “Charleston loophole.”
Also, although she believes some criminals should be denied access to guns, she remains a dedicated defender of Second Amendment rights.
Asked about cases of spousal abuse, she said women need to be able to protect themselves like everyone else but wanted more data, saying that the information presented in the Post and Courier newspaper was now dated.
She was also quite emphatic that Planned Parenthood needs to go. She said there are thousands of places in South Carolina for disadvantaged women to get health care services without going to Planned Parenthood. She insisted that she doesn’t want federal money to pay for abortions and that she is proud to have voted to withhold funding from the organization every year she’s been in office.