Joe Cunningham announces bid for Governor

reprinted from The State.

Democrat Joe Cunningham, a former congressman from Charleston whose short but meteoric political rise made him an oft-cited example of how Democrats can win in deep-red states, will run for governor of South Carolina in 2022. Cunningham’s candidacy will be announced Monday, a source with Cunningham’s campaign confirmed to The State newspaper on Sunday evening. Ending months of speculation about his political aspirations, Cunningham now becomes the first major Democrat to seek his party’s nomination in the South Carolina governor’s race. Democratic activist Gary Votour of Columbia declared a bid earlier this year. No Republicans have announced plans to challenge the sitting governor, Henry McMaster, whose 2022 reelection campaign has already begun. Cunningham, an attorney specializing in construction law, had never run for political office when he was narrowly elected to represent South Carolina’s coastal 1st Congressional District in 2018. He won in the suburban district by zeroing in on local issues, especially his opposition to offshore drilling. He modeled himself as a moderate Democrat who pledged to put the needs of his district above national political interests. His victory that year stunned national political watchers, as he became the first Democrat in nearly 40 years to represent the reliably Republican district. But two years later, buoyed by a polarized presidential election in November 2020, former state Rep. Nancy Mace, of Daniel Island, defeated Cunningham and won the seat back for Republicans by fewer than 6,000 votes. Earlier this month, Cunningham terminated his federal campaign fundraising account, an outward sign that he had no desire to run again in the 1st District, which includes parts of Charleston, Berkeley, Dorchester, Colleton and Beaufort counties. As he prepares to officially enter the gubernatorial race, Cunningham faces a Herculean task not unlike the long-shot odds he encountered in his 2018 congressional bid. Republicans have accounted for six of South Carolina’s past eight governors. The Palmetto State has not elected a Democrat as governor since Jim Hodges in 1998. In 2018, McMaster defeated Democrat James Smith by 8 percentage points. After news broke Wednesday that Cunningham had filed preliminary paperwork for a gubernatorial bid, S.C. Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick issued a challenge to Cunningham: “Bring it on.” “Any time a Republican goes head-to-head with a Democrat on the issues, Republicans win. We expect to see the same result in 2022 as we did in 2018 – a Republican in the governor’s mansion,” McKissick said in a statement Wednesday. However, recent voting history shows Cunningham could be a formidable opponent with crossover appeal. 
Read more here: