MYRTLE BEACH — While a crowded field of contenders has emerged to challenge U.S. Rep. Tom Rice in next year's GOP primary, one of them has risen far above the rest of the pack — and even the incumbent — in early fundraising efforts.
Conservative media personality Graham Allen brought in more than $409,000 since entering the race in mid-May and loaned his campaign an additional $92,000.
That brings his total for the fundraising quarter to more than $500,000, according to federal disclosures filed July 15.
Rice raised $327,000 from April through June, less than Allen in double the time. But the Myrtle Beach Republican maintains a much bigger campaign war chest of more than $1.5 million, meaning Allen will still have more work to do in order to catch up. Allen now has $463,000 available in his campaign account.
After cruising to reelection multiple times since winning the newly created 7th Congressional District in 2012, Rice faces by far the most formidable threat of his political career after becoming one of just 10 U.S. House Republicans to vote in favor of impeaching then-President Donald Trump.
No fewer than a dozen Republican candidates promptly filed paperwork to challenge Rice in the 2022 GOP primary after his impeachment vote, a dramatic reversal of fortune for a congressman with one of the most conservative voting records in South Carolina's delegation.
One of them — state Rep. William Bailey of Little River — has already dropped out. Another lawmaker, state Rep. Russell Fry of Surfside Beach, is still exploring the possibility of jumping into the race.
The second best fundraiser of the challengers so far has been Horry County School Board Chairman Ken Richardson.
Since entering the race in February, Richardson has raised about $80,000 and loaned his campaign an additional $100,000. Beyond his elected work on education, Richardson is also well-known in the Myrtle Beach area as a former Mercedes-Benz car dealer.
Barbara Arthur, an insurance agent from Hartsville, raised less than $13,000 but also loaned her campaign about $40,000 and has not spent any of it, according to her filing.
Reports from the next fundraising quarter should give a clearer picture of whether any other candidates will have the type of resources needed to break through such a congested field. Former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride only entered the race shortly before the end of this fundraising quarter, so his bid is just warming up.
Based on the financial competition, Rice's primary looks likely to be the marquee race in South Carolina for the 2022 election cycle.
U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., is the overwhelming favorite to win reelection, amassing a huge cash advantage over his two Democratic opponents, state Rep. Krystle Matthews of Ladson and Spartanburg Democratic Party Chairwoman Angela Geter.
Scott raked in a whopping $9.6 million from April through June, taking his campaign account to $14.5 million. Matthews raised $27,000 and has less than $8,000 left. Geter had yet to file a fundraising report by the July 15 deadline.
U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Charleston, starts off with a commanding head start over her only announced challenger so far, Republican Lynz Piper-Loomis.
The incumbent raised $863,000 from April through June and has $925,000 in her campaign account. Piper-Loomis, by contrast, brought in just $17,000 since announcing her bid in April and has less than $3,000 of it left.
Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.
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