Former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Chad Connelly kicked off his quest for the U.S. House of Representatives with a Thursday morning visit to Sumter, the first of an eight-stop, two-day tour of cities and towns for the candidate throughout South Carolina’s Fifth Congressional District.
Earlier this week, the 53-year-old Prosperity resident and Republican National Committee staffer announced his intention to seek the federal office. In doing so, Connelly joined a crowded field of declared candidates seeking the Republican nomination in the special election that, until shortly after the Sumter visit, wasn’t technically even guaranteed to occur.
Currently held by Indian Land Republican Mick Mulvaney, the four-term Congressman is expected to give up his office after the U.S. Senate confirmed his appointment as director of the Office of Management and Budget in President Trump’s administration Thursday morning. Mulvaney received confirmation, albeit by a narrow 51-49 vote primarily along party lines.
In kicking off his campaign, Connelly said he will unapologetically focus his campaign on energizing Christian voters. “We’re losing the country, and it’s nobody’s fault but our own,” Connelly said. “I tell my Sunday School class this is our fault. We’ve got to back and engage. It’s what the founding fathers envisioned.”
Stopping at Bubba’s Diner on Broad Street during what he is calling his “D.C. is Broken Tour,” Connelly said one of the main efforts he will work toward, if elected, will be trying to establish term limits for elected federal officials. “I don’t believe we’re going to clean up Washington until we have term limits,” Connelly said. “It’s frustrating when you see someone who has been there 30, 40, 50 years. I mean, God bless them, thanks for your service, but we need and deserve conservative reform.”
Expected to challenge Connelly in his bid for the Republican nomination are at least five other candidates, including former state Department of Education and state House candidate Sherri Few, South Carolina State Guard commander Tom Mullikin, state Rep. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill, state Rep. Tommy Pope of York and Indian Land-based attorney Kris Wampler.
No Democrats have formally announced their intention to run in the expected election, although one notable resident of the district, state Sen. and former two-time gubernatorial nominee Vincent Sheheen of Camden, has said he will not enter the race.
For voters in the Republican primary, Connelly said the key factor will be determining which of the candidates can best communicate a conservative message. “I’ll bet you, I hope, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference in what we believe in,” Connelly said of his expected primary opponents. “This is going to be all about who you think, as voters, can take the conservative message to D.C. and make a difference.”
Bolstering his campaign locally were endorsements from two politically active Sumter County residents. Before the crowd of about 30 people gathered at the diner, two recent local Republican nominees who both ran unsuccessfully for the state senate, Tony Barwick and Rev. Leon Winn, both told the crowd they will be campaigning of Connelly’s behalf.
The Fifth Congressional District runs from the midlands, including approximately half of Sumter County and extends into 11 counties, reaching the border with North Carolina in York County, and has been represented by Mulvaney since 2011.
Connelly praised the current Congressman during his remarks, pointing out he endorsed Mulvaney back when Connelly was serving as chairman of the Newberry County Republican Party, and said he believes Mulvaney will do a “fantastic job” as director of the Office of Management and Budget..
Connelly likely learned shortly after his next stop in Lancaster the seat he is seeking is indeed going to be available. Arizona senator John McCain was the lone dissenter among Republicans against Mulvaney’s confirmation as White House budget director, having publicly announced Mulvaney’s past opposition to various military spending bills has made it impossible for him to support the local Representative. All other Republican senators, however, supported Mulvaney, giving him just enough support for confirmation.
Several Sumter County voters, especially those in the western portion of the county, will actually have two special elections to consider during the next few months, as they will also be looking to elect a new state representative to the District 70 seat. The other special election has been triggered by the unexpected death of Rep. Joe Neal, D-Hopkins, who had represented the district for 24 years before passing away Tuesday.