Cunningham, Mace trade jabs in Beaufort debate

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By Lolita Huckaby
Photos by Bob Sofaly

Republican 1st District Congressional candidate Nancy Mace made it clear Monday night during her first televised debate with incumbent Congressman Joe Cunningham that she grew up in the Lowcountry.

The fact was one of many jabs exchanged during the one hour debate as Mace highlighted her relationship with the Lowcountry compared to Cunningham, who grew up in Kentucky and came to South Carolina to attend the College of Charleston.

But they’re both here now, and the two came out figuratively swinging in their efforts to convert voters for the upcoming Nov. 3 election.

The prepared questions ranged from offshore drilling to affordable housing to medical care to voting records.

Cunningham took aim at Mace’s voting record in the S.C. House, where he pointed out she missed 30 percent of the votes earlier in the year.

Mace, a single mother of two, said she was suffering from COVID and her children were sick during that period. Then she accused her opponent of attacking working, single moms who put their children’s medical care before work.

“You should be ashamed of yourself; you should be disqualified from these debates,” she scolded Cunningham, who is married with one young son.

Democratic U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham debates Republican challenger state Rep. Nancy Mace Monday September 28, 2020 at the SCETV studios in Beaufort, S.C in the South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District seat. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Mace repeatedly came back at Cunningham for voting with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on 90 percent of the votes. But the incumbent noted during his first week in Congress he voted against Pelosi for Speaker.

“My opponent seems to be so hell-bent to run against Nancy Pelosi, I suggest she buy herself a plane ticket, fly to California and run against Nancy Pelosi,” he said. “But we’re here and she’s running against me.”

Cunningham repeatedly pointed to his recognition as the fourth most bi-partisan member of Congress and his endorsement by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He continued his campaign theme of the importance of “reaching across the aisles” to reach legislative solutions.

Mace accused Cunningham of “voting to put Parris Island – not 10 miles away from here – on the chopping block” but did not offer any particulars. He did not respond to the accusation and both promised their full support to keep the Marine Corps Recruit Depot open.

As a parting shot, Cunningham noted that Mace’s business experiences include being co-owner of the, which he called a “political gossip and bikini” website.

The debate was sponsored by the Charleston Post and Courier, SCETV and S.C. Public Radio. It took place in the WJWJ-TV studios on the Technical College of the Lowcountry campus in Beaufort.

Lolita Huckaby Watson is a community volunteer and a former reporter/editorial assistant/columnist with The Beaufort Gazette, The Savannah Morning News, Bluffton Today and Beaufort Today. She can be reached at