Kevin McCarthy’s first target on his revenge tour: Nancy Mace

DANIEL ISLAND, SC — Rep. Nancy Mace is no stranger to intraparty battles. Now, his role in a major Republican fight last year — the ouster of Kevin McCarthy as House speaker — is complicating his primary Tuesday.

Mace, who is both a candidate for a third term and a campaign manager, has drawn the ire of Republican higher-ups in the few years she has been in Washington. In 2022, it was former President Donald Trump – although they have since patched things up. Then, a year later, she voted in historic fashion to eject a House speaker from her own party.

In fact, McCarthy is the first thing Mace refers to when asked about what’s at stake in his latest political fight against a primary challenger who is running with McCarthy’s support.

Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Rep. Nancy Mace, SRCGetty Images; SIPA via AP

“It’s about revenge,” Mace told NBC News in an interview at his campaign headquarters on Daniel Island. “It’s also about honesty and integrity. And my vote to oust Kevin McCarthy was a matter of confidence.

Mace says she doesn’t regret the vote.

McCarthy, for his part, said his support for the Republican Party challenging several of the “crazy eight,” as he calls Republicans who voted against him, has nothing to do with a political vendetta. Sources close to McCarthy emphasize that he is limited in what he can do directly, beyond giving money and advice. His spokesperson declined an interview request.

But McCarthy-aligned operatives are putting a lot of money into these races through outside groups. Tuesday’s challenge against Mace is the first test, followed by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good’s primary in Virginia next week. Two more anti-McCarthy voters – Reps. Arizona’s Eli Crane and Florida’s Matt Gaetz – also face major challenges this summer.

In South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District, Catherine Templeton said Mace’s vote against McCarthy was “absolutely” what prompted her to run against Mace. Templeton is also a Trump supporter and served as Secretary of Labor in South Carolina. Nikki Haley’s office.

Catherine Templeton at a Trump rally in February. 14 in North Charleston, South CarolinaMeg Kinnard/AP

Before launching his candidacy, Templeton met with Brian O. Walsh, a GOP political strategist and McCarthy ally. But she told The Post and Courier that she hadn’t spoken to McCarthy “about eliminating Congresswoman Mace, but I asked him to help me raise money.” McCarthy contributed to Templeton’s campaign through his PAC leadership.

Yet Templeton also downplayed the former speaker’s role here, speaking between campaign stops in Beaufort.

“His antics have consequences,” Templeton said of Mace, framing the race as bigger than just one action, although clearly tied to this historic vote. “All due respect to Kevin McCarthy, who I’m sure is a wonderful man: Nobody pays any attention to Kevin McCarthy in the Low Country of South Carolina.”

But what might attract voters’ attention are advertisements.

Three outside groups linked to McCarthy allies — American Prosperity Alliance, South Carolina Patriots PAC and Lowcountry Conservatives — have spent more than $4 million on ads against Mace alone, according to AdImpact, an ad tracking company. The MP also had her own external cavalry. The Club for Growth Action and one of its aligned groups spent $3 million on ads to boost Mace.

Despite the barrage of outside attacks and negative attention generated by McCarthy’s vote, Mace’s campaign has advantages. She has Trump’s approval, after returning home following Trump’s criticism in the wake of the January attacks. September 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol.

She told NBC News “it was an easy choice to support Donald Trump” in 2024 “because we’ve had four years of Joe Biden” — a 180-degree turn from her statement that the GOP should leave Trump after the attack on the Capitol.

And even if the president’s vote did not win over his friends in Washington, it could work in favor of his appeal to primary voters at home.

“Part of the reason she’s being challenged right now is because she challenged the system,” said South Carolina GOP strategist Dave Wilson, who is not involved in the race. “So it kind of plays into the narrative of, ‘Hey, look, if you want to find someone who’s willing to overthrow the system when they need to, Donald Trump and Nancy Mace are both willing to do that .'”

The handful of Republicans facing challenges at home sometimes talk about the McCarthy aspect, Mace admitted. “But I’m just one group,” she said. “I don’t report to anyone in Washington. I don’t work for anyone. “I work for South Carolina.”

She fended off a primary challenger backed by Trump in 2022. This time, “60-40” signs plastered on the walls of her campaign headquarters illustrate her hope of calming opponents by winning much more than the 50% needed to win. win the GOP primary. and avoid runoff. A third candidate, Marine veteran Bill Young, is running in the GOP primary, meaning a runoff is possible.

“Everyone leaves me for dead, right?” ” Mace said, reflecting on how her own party has attacked her. “They say ‘she’s out’ every election. It’s always ‘she’ll never make it,’ and then we do “I want to win more than ever on Tuesday night because I want to send a message to Washington that voters don’t care about Washington.”

Ali Vitali and Kyle Stewart reported from Daniel Island, and Bridget Bowman from Washington, D.C.

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