Rep. Nancy Mace fends off Kevin McCarthy-backed challenger in South Carolina GOP primary

South Carolina Rep. Nancy Mace won her bitterly fought Republican primary Tuesday, fending off a challenger who was backed by former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. 

Mace defeated attorney Catherine Templeton in the Charleston-based 1st District, The Associated Press projected, hitting the majority threshold needed to avoid a runoff. With 41% of the vote in, Mace led Templeton 57% to 29%, while Marine veteran Bill Young took 14%.

Mace’s role as one of the eight House Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy as House speaker in October loomed large over the race. She faced millions of dollars in ad spending from outside groups aligned with the former California congressman, and Templeton, who received financial support from McCarthy’s leadership PAC, said Mace’s vote is what pushed her to enter the race. 

But an endorsement from Donald Trump provided Mace with a boost, despite her mixed history with the presumptive Republican nominee. Mace ardently supported Trump in the 2024 presidential primary after she had called for the GOP to move on from him after the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Captiol and after defeating a primary challenger backed by the former president in 2022. 

Mace had also outraised Templeton and received support on the airwaves from the conservative Club for Growth Action.

Mace was looking for a decisive win, telling NBC News over the weekend, “I want to win bigger than ever before Tuesday night because I want to send a message to Washington that voters don’t care about D.C.” Her campaign office was adorned with “60-40” signs, signaling her desire for a big margin that avoided a runoff. 

Templeton, who previously served as then-Gov. Nikki Haley’s labor secretary, had dismissed McCarthy’s influence in the race.

“Nobody’s paying attention to Kevin McCarthy in the Low Country of South Carolina,” Templeton recently told NBC News. 

McCarthy’s revenge tour against the Republicans who voted to remove him as speaker will continue this summer, though. His affiliated groups have also spent money against GOP Reps. Bob Good of Virginia and Eli Crane of Arizona ahead of their primaries in the coming weeks. And McCarthy’s chief agitator, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, is also facing a primary challenger. 

In South Carolina’s 4th District, GOP Rep. William Timmons is also facing a hotly contested primary against state Rep. Adam Morgan, who chairs the Freedom Caucus in the Legislature. Morgan has support from some of Timmons’ hard-line House colleagues, turning the race into a proxy fight over internal divisions in the Republican conference. Trump endorsed Timmons in the primary.

Elsewhere in South Carolina, pastor Mark Burns and nurse Sheri Biggs are heading to a GOP primary runoff in two weeks in the race to replace retiring Rep. Jeff Duncan. 

Burns, who self-funded his campaign, had Trump’s endorsement in the race. Trump also appeared in a TV ad for Burns reportedly filmed on the evening of April 19 at Trump Tower in New York City, the same day Trump was in court for his hush money trial. 

Biggs, a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, also partly self-funded her campaign.

The winner of the June 25 runoff is expected to carry the deep-red 3rd District in November.

Outside of South Carolina, Nevada, North Dakota and Maine are also holding primary elections on Tuesday. And Trump has intervened in many of the key races.

In Maine’s 2nd District, Trump-backed state Rep. Austin Theriault won the Republican primary, the AP projected. Theriault, a former NASCAR driver, will face Rep. Jared Golden, a top Republican target as one of five Democrats running for re-election in a district Trump carried in 2020.

In North Dakota, GOP Rep. Kelly Armstrong won his party’s gubernatorial primary, making him the clear favorite to succeed for outgoing Republican Gov. Doug Burgum. Armstrong’s victory is another win for Trump, who supported his bid against Lt. Gov. Tammy Miller. Burgum, a potential running mate for Trump endorsed Miller.

Armstrong will face Democratic state Sen. Merrill Piepkorn in the fall in a state that hasn’t elected a Democratic governor since the 1988 election. 

Trump also supported Public Service Commissioner over former state Rep. Rick Becker in the primary to replace Armstrong in North Dakota’s at-large district. 

Trump made a last-minute endorsement in Nevada’s GOP Senate primary, backing Army veteran Sam Brown over his former ambassador to Iceland, Jeff Gunter. The winner will face Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen in the fall in what will be a critical race in the fight for Senate control.

Trump also put his thumb on the scale in Nevada’s 4th District, backing former North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee in the race to take on Democratic Rep. Steven Horsford. 

Aside from Tuesday’s primary contests, voters in Ohio’s 6th District picked a new member of Congress to replace former GOP Rep. Bill Johnson, who resigned in January.

Republican state Sen. Michael Rulli won the special election in the district over Democrat Michael Kripchak and will serve out the remainder of Johnson’s term, NBC News projected. Once he’s sworn in, Republicans will have 219 members of the House, giving them a bit more cushion in the narrowly divided chamber. 

Rulli underperformed compared to past Republicans in the low-turnout special election, winning 55% of the vote to Kripchak’s 45%. Trump carried the district 64% to 35% in 2020, according to calculations from Daily Kos Elections. And Johnson won re-election in 2022 68% to 32%.

Polls close at 7 p.m. ET in South Carolina, 7:30 p.m. ET in Ohio, 8 p.m. ET in Maine, 9 p.m. ET in North Dakota and 10 p.m. ET in Nevada.

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