Tue. Jun 18th, 2024

GOP hardliners are pushing to oust House colleagues — and they have a new target

By 37ci3 Jun10,2024

Hard-right Republicans in Congress have so far failed to oust several of their GOP colleagues they targeted in this year’s primaries. But the effort is moving forward, and Rep. William Timmons of South Carolina is their next target.

It’s the latest incumbent primary in an ongoing proxy war over whether it’s best for House GOP divisions to work across the aisle and find some amount of common ground to pass legislation — or hold the conservative line at all costs, even if it means shutting down Congress.

GOP Rep. Nancy Mace’s challenge in the primary has gotten more attention. But Timmons, a three-term congressman, faces a competitive primary Tuesday against state Rep. Adam Morgan, the leader of the South Carolina legislature’s Freedom Caucus, who is also backed by several members of the congressional caucus.

For Timmons, this race is not about his conservative credentials.

“It’s not ‘Freedom Caucus v. William Timmons.’ It’s the fringe, vociferous component of the Freedom Caucus,” Timmons said. “I have a more conservative voting record than six of the nine people who have endorsed my primary opponent outside the Republican convention.”

“So it’s not about politics,” Timmons said. “It’s about tactics.”

Timmons has some big advantages, including spending and support from fringe groups and the most favored endorsement in GOP politics: former President Donald Trump.

However, it can still be vulnerable. Timmons narrowly escaped a runoff two years ago against lesser-funded opponents, and then faced with allegations from an extramarital affair. Timmons declined to comment on the allegations, but has since divorced and told NBC News that he and his ex-wife are “still on very good terms.” South Carolina Republican strategists say the allegations could still be a problem for Timmons in a socially conservative district.

Proxy battle

GOP lawmakers on both sides of their infighting over tactics are more willing to openly support primary challengers to their colleagues, including in Timmons’ primary.

Rep. Morgan of Florida. Matt Gaetz and members of the House Freedom Caucus, including R-Va. Chairman Bob Goode and Timmons’ counterpart in South Carolina, Rep. Timmons is also backed by several members of the Freedom Caucus, including Byron Donalds of Florida and founding members Jim Jordan of Ohio, as well as GOP Gov. Henry McMaster.

Gaetz campaigned with Morgan then in April shares his video fearmongering special interests on the state House floor, helping to attract attention and money to Morgan’s campaign.

“I need a backup like him in Congress to save this country and defeat the establishment,” Gaetz said.

Gaetz, Good and some members of the Freedom Caucus also supported primary challengers Reps. Mike Bost of Illinois, Tony Gonzalez of Texas and Don Bacon of Nebraska. Incumbents have won, but Morgan thinks this race will be different.

“If you see the energy in the ground, people are ready for change,” Morgan said in an interview. “And I think it’s probably going to be a lot different than other races. “We have a very informed voter base in our region that is already disenchanted with our current president and they are ready for a really strong alternative.”

Morgan said Timmons’ vote for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last year was “definitely a factor” in his decision to run, and he supported Freedom Caucus members’ push for House rule changes that weaken central control of the speakership.

Morgan said some Freedom Caucus members told him that Timmons was pressuring them to support McCarthy and that they could lose their committee assignments if they didn’t comply.

“My member was missing in action as a regular MO, he was actually working for McCarthy against the conservatives,” Morgan said.

Timmons, a former member of the panel who performed committee assignments, said it was “not right” for him to threaten lawmakers on behalf of the administration. He told some MPs that “merit, seniority and a team player” mentality are considered for committee posts.

Morgan tried to portray Timmons as a “nothing moderate” who did not support conservative policies such as cutting government spending, opposing diversity initiatives and opposing aid to Ukraine. (Timmons counters that voted against the latest Ukraine aid package.)

Timmons, meanwhile, said Morgan was too extreme and uncompromising. His closing attack It noted Morgan’s support for an amendment that would have made a “pregnant woman who intentionally aborts” face up to two years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000. Timmons argued that such positions are counterproductive for the anti-abortion rights movement and could ultimately help Democrats win in November.

“Protecting life is not a Republican commitment,” Morgan replied. He denied the attack and claimed he had voted in other instances to free the women from prosecution.

Morgan said the amendment was intended to close a “loophole” regarding “self-aborting women” that appears to apply to women who have medical abortions, which make up the majority of abortions. in South Carolina.

Morgan said he supports the amendment “because we really want to protect life.”

The Trump factor

Tuesday’s race in the 4th District will also test the strength of Trump’s endorsement in a competitive primary.

Trump is estimated to have won the heavily evangelical upstate by 32 points in 2020, the widest margin among South Carolina’s seven districts. Daily Kos Elections. In this year’s presidential elections, Trump won the 4th District with 60% of the vote and 20 points.

“It definitely helps [Timmons] “It’s a Republican primary,” said South Carolinian GOP strategist Chip Felkel, who is not involved in the race, adding that it likely boosts Timmons in more rural parts of the district outside of Greenville and Spartanburg.

Timmons was launched television commercial Trump spoke directly to the camera and called Timmons “America’s first patriot.”

“A lot of people want to support Trump,” Timmons said. “And if Trump says, this is my guy, I need him to help me get our country back on track, they’re going to do it… He supports me because of my results and because we agree. .”

The ad highlights Timmons’ significant financial advantage in the race. According to ad tracking firm AdImpact, it and its allies, including outside groups linked to the cryptocurrency industry, spent $3.1 million on Morgan’s $221,000 worth of ads.

But Morgan isn’t worried that Trump’s support will hurt his campaign.

“People in this district love the president, they support the president, but they’re not going to vote for their representative just because someone tells them to,” Morgan said. “They will do their own research.”

It’s not unheard of for a Trump-backed incumbent to lose a primary in 2020 to staunch Republicans like Good and Rep. Lauren Boebert, who beat the Colorado incumbent. But this is rare.

“So far it’s failing in some states,” South Carolinian GOP strategist Dave Wilson said of the hardliners’ primary effort.

“There’s a possibility they could get a hit with Adam Morgan,” Wilson said. “But Donald Trump’s curveball, so to speak, could be enough to hit them here as well.”

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By 37ci3

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