Skip to main contentSkip to main content
You have permission to edit this article.

GOP unity? Some aim for reconciliation after tough primaries

  • Updated
  • 0

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — Two days after losing a bitter primary to a rival she once deemed a “sellout” for occasionally working with Democrats, Katie Arrington appeared at a “unity rally” to urge South Carolina Republicans to come together and back Rep. Nancy Mace in the fall general election.

Republicans, Arrington said, “may fight like banshees inside the house, but once we walk out that door, it's one team, one fight.”

The cordial tone was striking in a Republican Party increasingly defined by an absolutist approach to politics. Former President Donald Trump, who backed Arrington, once refused to commit to supporting his GOP rivals if they emerged on top in the 2016 presidential primary. Since then, the party's win-at-all-costs mentality has only deepened as any nods at compromise are rejected.

Sen. John Cornyn, for instance, was jeered at the Texas Republican convention last week after working with Democrats on modest changes to gun laws after a school massacre in the state last month. Eric Greitens, a GOP Senate candidate in Missouri, released an ad this week depicting him with a gun as he goes “hunting” for so-called RINOs, which stands for Republicans In Name Only. The video was so graphic that Facebook removed it and Twitter prevented it from being shared.

That's what made the scene in South Carolina so notable. Aware that the coastal congressional district is one of the few places in the state where Democrats have been competitive, Republicans said it was important to move past the party's internal divisions.

“We need to put our weight behind a selected candidate that most of the people wanted and be unified in that," said Roger O’Sullivan, a Mount Pleasant retiree who had voted for Arrington, but will support Mace going forward. "It’s not going to happen tonight, but it has to certainly happen by November.”

Charleston-area voter JoAnne Knapp also expressed optimism for 1st District Republicans to come together even if they don't always agree, likening the division to a union of spouses who maintain their individual viewpoints, yet compromise when necessary.

“It’s kind of like a marriage,” Knapp said. “If you stay steadfast in your ways, it’s not going to last.”

Mace has angered many Republicans with her criticism of Trump, particularly after he sparked the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. The violence, which unfolded during Mace's first week in office, undermined Trump's “entire legacy," she said at the time. And while she's a reliable conservative vote in Congress, she's occasionally worked with Democrats on issues such as advocating for the LGBTQ community, legalizing marijuana and strengthening cybersecurity infrastructure.

Acknowledging that “people still feel very passionate” about the direction of the GOP, Charleston County Republican Chairman Maurice Washington said he was “optimistic” that the party could unite against Democrat Annie Andrews in the fall.

“We’ve got to rid the party of ‘old guard, new guard,’ and lose that term, ‘RINOs,’” Washington said, of the moniker for those not seen by some as true conservatives. “That’s not about unity, that’s about trust. And unless we bridge that trust gap, along with the unity gap, we’re not going to be successful. ... But this is a good start.”

Beyond South Carolina, other Republicans have made some effort to bring the party together after a difficult primary. After being soundly defeated in Georgia's GOP contest for governor last month, the Trump-backed David Perdue said he trusted voters and would “make damn sure" that Republicans defeat Democrat Stacey Abrams in the general election.

But some GOP efforts to encourage reconciliation have not always worked out as planned. At an event last month intended to rally Republicans around the party’s nominee for governor in Nebraska, the Trump-backed candidate in the race, Charles Herbster, made only a brief appearance and left without endorsing the winner, Jim Pillen.

And earlier this week in Alabama's Senate runoff, Rep. Mo Brooks acknowledged that the “voters have spoken" in choosing Katie Britt as the GOP nominee. But, he added, “they might not have spoken wisely."

And even in South Carolina, Arrington took a sharper tone just one day after the unity event. She called into a Charleston-area radio show to vow that, while she is “all for unity in the party” and would work to ensure Mace’s reelection, she would also “rally up” her supporters to impress upon Mace their viewpoint that she needs to tilt away from being conciliatory with Democrats.

“The only way to make her accountable is to stay on her,” Arrington said.

“I’m going to become Nancy Mace’s worst nightmare,” she continued. “She is going to have to understand that we are not going to be complacent. ... I want a Republican to be successful, but I want a conservative Republican to be successful.”

Meg Kinnard can be reached at

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.


Get Government & Politics updates in your inbox!

* I understand and agree that registration on or use of this site constitutes agreement to its user agreement and privacy policy.

Related to this story

Most Popular

A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., has indicted an Indianapolis member of the far-right Oath Keepers militia group with conspiracy and other charges for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol. Prosecutors say the indictment unsealed Friday charges 39-year-old Michael Greene with conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to prevent an officer from discharging any duties, entering and remaining in a restricted building or grounds and tampering with documents or proceedings. Greene was arrested in Indiana on Thursday. He was expected to make his initial court appearance later Friday.

Lawmakers in Bulgaria have approved a no-confidence motion against the country’s minority coalition government that could topple the centrist prime minister and further stall efforts by Balkan countries to join the European Union. A center-right opposition party filed the motion last week, accusing the government of mishandling public finances and failing to tackle rising inflation. The no-confidence vote passed 123-116 with no abstentions on Wednesday. Prime Minister Kiril Petkov has pushed for a resolution to a bilateral dispute that has blocked North Macedonia and Albania’s bids to join the EU. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has prompted the EU to consider speeding up its membership drive in the Western Balkans to prevent Moscow from expanding its regional influence.

Katie Britt has won the Republican nomination for Senate in Alabama, defeating six-term Congressman Mo Brooks in a primary runoff after former President Donald Trump endorsed and then un-endorsed him. The loss ends a turbulent campaign for Brooks, a conservative firebrand who had fully embraced Trump’s election lies and had run under the banner “MAGA Mo.” But it wasn’t enough for the former president, who initially backed Brooks in the race to replace retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, but then rescinded his support as Brooks languished in the polls. Trump eventually endorsed Britt in the race’s final stretch after she emerged as the top vote-getter in the state’s May 24 primary.

The White House is launching a partnership with 11 East Coast governors to boost the growing offshore wind industry, a key element of President Joe Biden’s climate change plan. Biden administration officials will meet with governors and labor leaders Thursday to announce commitments to expand important parts of the offshore industry. Those parts include manufacturing facilities, ports and workforce training and development. The Democratic president has a goal of deploying enough offshore wind power by 2030 to provide electricity to 10 million homes and support 77,000 jobs. The governors are from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Moroccan state media are reporting that the number of people who were killed after they tried to scale a border fence between Morocco and a Spanish enclave in North Africa has risen to 23. Human rights organizations in Spain and Morocco called on both countries to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths. Moroccan authorities said the individuals died as a result of a “stampede” of people who attempted Friday to climb the iron fence that separates the city of Melilla and Morocco. The ministry initially reported five deaths. Local authorities cited by Morocco’s official Television 2M updated the number to 18 and then 23 on Saturday. The Moroccan Human Rights Association reported 27 dead.

Russia’s military machine is persevering in its ferocious effort to grind down Ukraine’s defenses. Combat in eastern areas of Ukraine reportedly is entering a decisive phase. Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said the Kremlin had ordered its military to overrun the entire eastern Luhansk region by next Sunday. In that region, which in recent weeks has become the focal point of Moscow’s attempt to impose its will on its neighbor, battles are raging for the control of multiple villages. The war’s consequences for food and fuel supplies are increasingly weighing on minds around the globe after warnings that the fighting could go on for years.

The State Department is preparing to compensate victims of mysterious brain injuries colloquially known as “Havana Syndrome" with six-figure payments, according to officials and congressional aides. Current and former State Department staff and their families who suffered from “qualifying injuries” will receive payments of between roughly $100,000 and $200,000 each, the officials and aide said. They spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the expected publication next week of the State Department's plan. Specific amounts will be determined by the extent and severity of the victims’ injuries, which have included brain damage not limited to vertigo, cognitive damage and eyesight and hearing problems.

The House has sent President Joe Biden the most wide-ranging gun violence bill Congress has passed in decades. The bill that passed the House on Friday is a measured compromise that at once illustrates progress on the long-intractable issue and the deep-seated partisan divide that persists. The Democratic-led chamber approved the election-year legislation with every Democrat and 14 Republicans voting yes. That caps a spurt of action prompted by voters’ revulsion over last month’s mass shootings in New York and Texas. The Senate approved it earlier by a bipartisan 65-33 margin, with 15 Republicans joining all Democrats. The White House says Biden will sign the bill Saturday morning.

While South Carolina is not one of the 13 states with “trigger laws” banning abortion after the Supreme Court's decision to overturn federal protections, lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state are ready to further restrict the procedure. Shortly after the high court's ruling came down Friday, Gov. Henry McMaster said he would immediately work with the state legislature to find "the best solution for protecting the lives of unborn South Carolinians.” A federal appeals court in February blocked the law signed by McMaster last year that banned most abortions after six weeks. The state attorney general's office asked the appeals court to lift its injunction Friday.

Get up-to-the-minute news sent straight to your device.


Breaking News

News Alert