Not long after U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach, joined House Democrats and nine other Republicans to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the deadly Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, challengers began lining up at home to oust him from his seat.

“I want to do the one thing that Tom Rice didn’t do: I want to listen to the people and see what the people in my district want me to do,” one of those candidates, Horry County Board of Education Chairman Ken Richardson, said in February when he announced his bid.

Since that pivotal vote in early January, at least eight people have said they plan to run against Rice in the June 2022 Republican primary election.

The latest challenger to join the fray is state Rep. Russell Fry, R-Surfside Beach, an attorney and the Republicans’ chief whip in the state House of Representatives, meaning its his job to convince fellow Republicans to vote for legislation party leaders want to pass. He plans to formally announce his bid against Rice Thursday evening in Myrtle Beach.

In an interview with The State and The Sun News Wednesday, Fry said Rice’s vote to impeach Trump “broke the trust of the people in the Pee Dee and Grand Strand and they deserve a congressman they can trust.” Fry said he plans to run as a candidate more conservative than Rice, but as one who supports some of Rice’s key projects, including Interstate 73.

Other challengers include former Myrtle Beach Mayor Mark McBride and conservative activist and commentator Graham Allen. Allen, despite raising more than $500,000 in six weeks, has drawn concern from some party leaders across the Pee Dee and Grand Strand regions because of abrasive comments he’s made online and the fact that he lives in Anderson, which is not in the 7th District.

Allen has said he plans to buy a home in the eastern part of the district.

Rice, first elected in 2012 and currently serving his fifth term in Congress, is taking his challengers in stride.

At town hall events around the 7th Congressional District, he’s defended his vote to impeach Trump, saying he viewed the former president’s actions and the riot as “an attack on the Constitution” and highlighted his 94% voting record during Trump’s four years in office. Rice has said he’s used to challengers and welcomes the debate.

“My friend, it’s like I’ve been saying time and time again. I’ve faced opposition every time and I’m proud of what I’ve done,” Rice told The Sun News last week. “It’s nothing new and I look forward to the debate.”

Here’s a look at Rice and those looking to challenge him next year:

Tom Rice

Age: 64

Political Party: Republican

Profession: Tax attorney

Money raised: $731,345

U.S. Congressman Tom Rice during an interview at The Sun News. Aug. 21, 2018. Jason Lee [email protected]

Rice was born in Charleston, but raised in Myrtle Beach and has worked as an accountant and tax attorney for much of his professional career, eventually establishing his own law practice in Myrtle Beach. He served as chairman of the Horry County Council until 2012 when he won a seat for the newly-formed 7th Congressional District.

Throughout his five terms in office, Rice has focused his efforts on infrastructure and economic initiatives in the district. He’s been a longtime supporter of building Interstate 73, a leg of which would connect Interstate 95 to Highway 22 in the Myrtle Beach area. Rice also has brought funding to the district to dredge the Georgetown port and helped build the Dillon Inland Port. He was a strong supporter of Trump during his four years in office, voting with him 94% of the time. Rice also has touted his work on the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, in which he said he used his tax law knowledge to secure protections for small businesses.

In January, Rice joined nine other Republicans in voting to impeach Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection. He said he did so because he felt it was his constitutional duty. The South Carolina Republican Party censured him for his vote.

Rice is running for his sixth term and has said he welcomes challengers.

Graham Allen

Age: 34

Political party: Republican

Profession: Army veteran, founder of Dear America Foundation, author, media personality, contributor to Turning Point USA

Money raised: $501,245

Graham Allen, left, pictured with his wife Elissa Vinzant Allen at a rally for Donald Trump. Photo courtesy of Graham Allen.

Allen comes to the 7th Congressional District as an outsider, having grown up in Mississippi and currently living in Anderson. After serving in the Army and National Guard, Allen started posting “daily rant” videos online during Trump’s presidency and quickly gained a following as a firebrand conservative media personality. He currently works as a contributor for the Turning Point USA network, a nonprofit that pushes conservative politics on high school and college campuses.

Allen described himself as “an America first” candidate running in the mold of Trump. He said he joined the race because he believes “it’s 2022 or bust” for Republicans to regain control of the federal government and continue Trump’s agenda. He’s drawn criticism for living outside of the 7th District but said he’s looking into buying a home in the area in the near future.

Allen announced his race on Fox News and has made an impressive showing in his fundraising to date. He’s focused largely on national issues and said he supports heavier regulation of large technology and social media companies and tighter security at the border.

Barbara Arthur

Age: 57

Political party: Republican

Profession: Christian public speaker, insurance agent

Money raised: $52,814

Arthur, born in Cuba, said she’s running for Congress against Rice because she wants to fight back the influence of socialism and communism in the United States. She’s described her family as having been “ravaged” by Fidel Castro’s government in the 1960s after he took power following the Cuban Revolution. She immigrated to the United States legally in 1969, she said.

Arthur is against abortion, supports the rights of gun owners and said she will protect the United States’ “Christian heritage.”

“Communism is not at our door, it’s in the house — the White House. I will fight to protect the freedom that American soldiers died for,” Arthur wrote on her campaign website.

Living in Hartsville, Arthur said Rice’s vote to impeach Trump drove her to jump into the race.

Tom Dunn

Political Party: Republican

Profession: Owns a digital marketing company

Money raised: $16,056

Dunn, hailing from Pawley’s Island, describes himself as “a conservative lion” who wants to bring Christian values to Washington. He’s said he’s running as an “America first” candidate who is against abortion, supports the rights of gun owners and wants to cut federal spending. His platform includes removing the United States from the United Nations and eliminating the federal Department of Education. Dunn said he supports tight security at the U.S.-Mexico border, opposes mail-in voting and same-day voter registration and opposes allowing transgender athletes competing in sports that don’t align with the gender they were assigned at birth.

“The left is challenging our American culture and our Judeo-Christian values and South Carolina needs conservatives in Congress who will protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, not just vote ‘the right way’ and complain about being powerless,” Dunn wrote on his campaign website. “America needs leaders who will block, obstruct, delay and stop every single item in the Biden-Harris-Pelosi-Schumer radical Socialist Open Borders Green New Deal neo-Marxist agenda.”

Dunn owns and operates Lucidpage, Inc., a digital marketing company, and co-founded OverWatchUSA, a nonprofit that “aims to reawaken, restore, and defend our Judeo-Christian Foundations and the Liberties afforded by our Constitutional Republic through community action.”

Dunn said he opposes “wokeness” and many of the social and cultural beliefs tat liberals and others on the left hold.

Kenneth Richardson

Age: 67

Political Party: Republican

Profession: Retired owner of an auto dealership; Chairman of the Horry County Board of Education

Money raised: $179,797

Horry County school board chair Republican nominee Ken Richardson reacts to the final numbers Tuesday at The Warehouse in Conway. Richardson beat out Janice Morreale and Pat Milley for the position. Josh Bell [email protected]

Even before Rice’s fateful impeachment vote, Richardson said he planned to challenge the sitting congressman because Rice, he said, wasn’t adequately responding to the needs of his constituents. He cited a meeting he had with Rice several years ago in which he lobbied the congressman to support a hurricane relief bill that would help the Horry County school district, but felt that he didn’t get anywhere.

Richardson grew up in Conway, attended Horry-Georgetown Technical College and worked as a salesman at Fowler Motors selling Mercedes’, BMWs, Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles and Jeeps for years until he eventually took over the business from the original owners. Richardson was elected as chairman of the school board in 2018 and has pledged to only serve one term. He said if he’s elected to Congress he would only serve three terms.

Richardson said, if elected, he would work to reduce federal influence in education, believing that state and local governments should have the largest say in public schools. He also said he questions the benefit of building Interstate 73, a key project Rice has supported for years, but said he’d support it if his constituents want it.

Russell Fry

Age: 36

Political Party: Republican

Profession: South Carolina House member for District 106 since 2015, works as an attorney for Coastal Law

Money raised: None yet.

Rep. Russell Fry Courtesy of The S.C. General Assembly

Fry, who won a special election in 2015, has quickly risen through the ranks of South Carolina politics, and currently serves as Republicans’ chief majority whip in the state House of Representatives. Fry describes himself as a “consistent proven conservative” and said he’s proud of his work in the state Legislature, including the passage of an open carry with permit gun law, the so-called “heartbeat” abortion ban and his work on ending human trafficking and the opioid epidemic in South Carolina.

Fry said he’s challenging Rice because he “broke the trust” of his constituents when he voted to impeach Trump in January. In an interview Wednesday, Fry said he would not have voted to certify the Electoral College votes in January, in addition to not voting to impeach Trump.

Fry said he’d focus his votes in Congress on bringing new jobs to the district, and said he’d continue to support the building of I-73. Fry also said he’d work to bring funding to the region for flooding mitigation projects.

Jeanette Spurlock

Age: 50

Political Party: Republican

Profession: Manages a self-storage facility

Money raised: $243

Jeanette Spurlock
Jeanette Spurlock, currently the manager of a self-storage business, has announced she’s running for Congress. Courtesy of Jeanette Spurlock.

Spurlock, originally from Ohio, moved to the Myrtle Beach area 30 years ago after she graduated high school and has worked in a number of fields since. After taking a first job as a ticket-taker at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, she worked a bookkeeper for a business, a boat salesperson, a waitress and for a payday loan service.

Spurlock described herself as a staunch conservative who supported Trump and who “begrudgingly” supported Rice and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in the past. She said that her experience as a working mother who’s been affected by flooding in the region has colored her politics, and said she’ll make bringing new jobs to the district, flood control and social services reform key parts of her platform. She said she’d like to see federal social programs put people on a path back into the workforce rather than becoming “dependent” on the government.

Spurlock said she’s currently focused on meeting people and building up her name recognition and will focus on fundraising in the future.

Mark Struthers McBride

Age: 57

Political Party: Republican

Profession: Former Mayor of Myrtle Beach 1998-2005

Money raised: $3,406


Throughout his political career, which has included serving on Myrtle Beach City Council, two terms as mayor and several failed runs for higher office including for U.S. Senate and the South Carolina legislature, McBride has made cultural issues a central part of his ideology. He campaigned against Sunday liquor sales, electronic gambling and adult entertainment businesses during his first campaign. He drew a federal lawsuit as mayor for allegations that the city was discriminating against motorcycle riders during the annual Black Bike Week.

In his run against Rice, McBride highlighted his opposition to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce and the construction of Interstate 73, a major roadway that would connect Interstate 95 to local Highway 22. He said Rice was wrong to vote to impeach Trump and vote for the investigative committee into the matter.

Justin Davison

Age: 38

Political Party: Republican

Profession: Safety equipment salesman

Money raised: None yet.

Justin Davison, a salesman from Loris, SC, announced at the beginning of 2021 that he plans to run for South Carolina’s 7th Congressional seat. Courtesy of Justin Davison

From Loris, Davison said he planned to run for Congress prior to Rice’s impeachment vote, originally announcing in December, but said his decision to run was on “emotion.”

Davison, who was raised in the Carolina Forest area, has previously volunteered the South Carolina National Guard to help with relief efforts after major storms. He said he’d prioritize getting residents easier access to federal relief funds after major storms if he’s elected. He also said he’d work to bring other federal funds to the district.

Davison is against abortion and against heavy regulations on businesses. He said if he’s elected, he would work to implement a system where constituents could more easily voice their concerns to him, and that he’d spent his time in office working to aid them. Davison added that if he’s elected, he’d only serve one or two terms before returning to the workforce.

“I’m just a regular individual. I work full-time, but I want to be able to stand up for the constituents and give them a real voice,” he said. “We give and we give and we elect and we elect and nothing ever comes back to us.”

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J. Dale Shoemaker covers Horry County government with a focus on government transparency, data and how the county government serves residents. A 2016 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, he previously covered Pittsburgh city government for the nonprofit news outlet PublicSource and worked on the Data & Investigations team at in New Jersey. A recipient of several local and statewide awards, both the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and the Society of Professional Journalists, Keystone State chapter, recognized him in 2019 for his investigation into a problematic Pittsburgh Police technology contractor, a series that lead the Pittsburgh City Council to enact a new transparency law for city contracting. You can share tips with Dale at [email protected]

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