Politics & Government

Republican’s Lowcountry target Joe Cunningham outraises challengers

A highly-criticized tweet from the National Republican Campaign Committee may have helped boost donations to U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, according to the latest federal campaign filings made public on Tuesday.

Cunningham, a Charleston Democrat, raised almost $529,000 from July through September, bringing to nearly $2 million the total the congressman has raised toward his re-election bid for the 1st District congressional seat.

That figure was smaller than the more than $615,000 he raised from April through June. However, Cunningham still finished the quarter with $1.3 million cash on hand that could help the vulnerable Democrat hold onto a seat that had been red since the 1980s.

He also maintains a healthy cash lead over at least three Republican challengers who have filed campaign finance reports for the quarter — an advantage he gained without money from political action committees, or special interests, said his campaign manager Allie Watters.

Republican state Rep. Nancy Mace of Daniel Island has so far raised the most cash among Cunningham’s four challengers.

Mace has raised more than $362,000 in her first full quarter — bringing her total to $518,000 — leaving her with close to $452,000 cash on hand.

“I’m enormously grateful to the donors large and small who recognize how hard I’ve worked at the State House on behalf of less government, more liberty and free markets,” Mace posted to her Facebook page last week. “This is a Republican district, and if Republicans simply do what we say we are going to do then we are going to win it back next fall.”

Mount Pleasant councilwoman Kathy Landing raised more than $45,000 in the latest quarter, with another $29,000 loan. Landing, a financial planner who was first elected to the town council in November 2017, leaves the quarter with nearly $304,000 cash on hand.

And Chris Covert, a Beaufort County councilman, brought in nearly $39,000 in the third quarter, with more than $36,000 cash on hand.

Grassroots group Bikers for Trump leader Chris Cox raised nearly $90,000, and has more than $28,000 cash on hand.

A tweet last month from a Republican organization may have fueled support for Cunningham.

That tweet from the NRCC targeted Cunningham’s wife, Amanda, after she posted a screenshot of 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Beto O’Rourke, who tweeted support to impeach President Trump.

The tweet, which drew criticism from GOP strategists and lawmakers and Democratic allies alike, gave Cunningham a boost of more than $40,000 in less than 24 hours, his campaign said then.

“Looks like Mrs. Cunningham likes a man who supports baseless impeachment…wonder if this will come up in @RepCunningham‘s marriage counseling?” the NRCC tweeted, referencing an earlier Instagram social media post where Amanda posted it was “mind-blowing” that congressional health insurance does not cover services such as couples’ therapy.

NRCC spokesman Chris Pack has defended his team’s tweet, saying last month that Amanda, not them, brought up the issues first.

“And they aren’t going to help Cunningham win re-election in SC-01,” Pack added.

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Report Emma Dumain contributed to this report.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.