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South Carolina State Representative Krystle Matthews, D-117, made a campaign stop at the Grace Chapel AME Church in Beaufort, South Carolina, Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. Matthews, who was first elected to her position in 2018, is running against incumbent Tim Scott for a seat in the U.S. Senate. (Tony Kukulich/The Island News)

He’s ‘done nothing for South Carolina’

Lowcountry’s Matthews challenges Scott for Senate seat

By Tony Kukulich

Democrat Krystle Matthews was a political unknown when she was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2018, and she is now looking to step onto the national stage as she takes on incumbent Republican Tim Scott in November for his seat in the U.S. Senate.

Matthews, who represents the 117th District that includes portions of Berkeley and Charleston counties, appeared before a welcoming crowd at the Grace Chapel AME Church in Beaufort last week during a meeting of the Northern Beaufort County Democratic Club (NBCDC).

“I’m excited to bring my ideas for South Carolina to the United States Senate because I feel like we just need someone who is really looking to make the state better and not trying to figure out what they can do to make their next step better,” Matthews said, drawing an enthusiastic response

Speaking for nearly an hour to a full house, Matthews was at ease and showed none of the nervousness she confessed to feeling when she began speaking in front of audiences. During her appearance in Beaufort, Matthews discussed a variety of topics in her platform, answered audience questions and pulled no punches when discussing her GOP opponent.

“He doesn’t have an identity,” Matthews said of Scott. “People don’t really know who he is or what he stands for. He’s a series of regurgitated quotes, and literally, that’s it. He’s very empty. If you really look at what he says when he makes statements, they’re all regurgitated thoughts. There’s not an original thought found in it. Who is he? Nobody knows.”

The single mother of five children aged 8 to 18 works as a planning engineer for Boeing. Matthews said it was a newspaper article about midterm elections that prompted her decision to run for office.

“It blew my mind that I didn’t understand the link between politics and my everyday life,” she said. “I went to bed and when I woke up I called my best friend and said, ‘I’m going to run for this seat.’”

Instead of the pushback she expected, the friend acted as though the decision was a foregone conclusion. Without any experience running for political office, Matthews turned to Google to learn how to register as a candidate and for information on running a campaign. Then she went to work meeting the district’s constituency.

“I didn’t knock on doors,” Matthews said. “That’s unsafe. People in politics, it’s normal for them. People outside of politics, we don’t knock on random people’s doors. I met people where they were. I went everywhere that people were. People were ready for change.”

On a shoestring budget of less than $1,000, Matthews easily defeated incumbent Bill Cosby with 53.5% of the vote. In doing so, she flipped the seat blue after Cosby’s eight-year tenure in the State House. In 2020, Matthews earned reelection when she defeated Republican challenger Jordan Pace with 52.6% of the vote.

Matthews is also running to retain her seat in the State House while she seeks election to the U.S. Senate. The 2022 primary saw increased competition for the 117th District seat. Three candidates, Catherine Fleming Bruce, Angela Getera and Matthews, vied for the Democratic nomination to compete in the 2022 general election. Geter was defeated in the primary, while Matthews survived the challenge defeating Bruce in a runoff election. In November, she will once again take on Pace.

In her bid for the U.S. Senate, Matthews discussed a need to improve the immigration process to relieve pressure on the country’s southern border as well as a need for credit score reform. Education and women’s reproductive rights are also key issues.

“We need to codify Roe v. Wade.” Matthews said. “Do your research. There are no laws that control men’s bodies, but there’s a lot of control of women’s bodies.”

While Matthews’ fundraising efforts have improved since that first election, the $108,000 she has raised between Jan. 1, 2021 and June 30, 2022, as reported by the Federal Elections Commission (FEC), pales in comparison to the $35.3 million raised by Scott’s campaign during the same timeframe. The FEC reports that as of the end of June, Matthews had $30,500 in cash available, while Scott’s campaign boasted a war chest of $24.7 million.

Given the financial disparity between the two campaigns, Matthews has her work cut out for her.

“The key thing that I’m going to have to (achieve) is name recognition,” explained Matthews. “I’m not already some popular person who was raised in politics in South Carolina. I’m asking people to tell everybody. Don’t assume anybody knows.”

At the conclusion of her comments, Matthews mingled with attendees, pausing for photos and discussing issues.

“We were very pleased to have had Krystle with us at our meeting,” said Denise Sullivan, president of the NBCDC. “She energized our members by sharing her ideas and points of view. We obviously are wishing her the best in this race to protect our Constitution and preserve our democracy.”

Tony Kukulich is a recent transplant to the Lowcountry. A native of Wilmington, Del., he comes to The Island News from the San Francisco Bay Area where he spent seven years as a reporter and photographer for several publications. He can be reached at tony.theislandnews@gmail.com.

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