Rep. Jeff Duncan to Retire — By: Church Militant

DETROIT ( – Yesterday, another House member announced his retirement, but it was the first from South Carolina.

Seven-term Palmetto State Republican Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, is the latest House member to announce that he will not seek reelection. He was hit with media reports back in September in which he admitted to having several extramarital affairs while campaigning as a traditional-values politician. It is probable that the negative publicity influenced his decision to leave Congress. His wife has filed for divorce.

Duncan now becomes the 45th House member not seeking reelection. Of the group, 23 seats are currently held by Democrats, while 21 come from the Republican column. One seat, the new 2nd District in Alabama, was created through the new court-ordered redistricting map. It is likely we will see a similar situation develop in Louisiana when the new court-ordered map is enacted into law before the end of the month.

Duncan’s western South Carolina 3rd District is safely Republican and has been since the Democratic Rep. Butler Derrick left office at the beginning of 1995. The 3rd district occupies the northwest portion of the state, beginning on the North Carolina border and stretching along the Georgia border all the way to the South Carolina side of the Augusta suburbs. The district comprises 10 counties in addition to about 12% of Greenville County, taking in some of the outer Greenville metro area on the city’s western side.

The Democratic Party first won the seat in the 1838 election and held it until South Carolina left the Union at the beginning of the Civil War. After the state returned to the United States, Republicans represented the district for ten years. Once the Democrats converted the seat, they held it from the 1876 election until 1994, when Lindsey Graham won the open race after Derrick retired. SC-3 has been in Republican hands ever since and is positioned to remain so as an open seat in the 2024 election.

The FiveThirtyEight data organization rates SC-3 as R+44 and is now the safest of the state’s six Republican South Carolina congressional districts. The Daily Kos Elections site ranks the district as the 36th safest seat in the House Republican Conference. Therefore, we can expect to see a crowded and highly active open Republican primary develop.

Duncan is the only South Carolina member not to seek reelection, but we could still see an active congressional cycle in the Palmetto State.

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard oral arguments on the Democrats’ racial gerrymandering lawsuit regarding the state’s Charleston-anchored 1st District, which two-term Rep. Nancy Mace, R-Charleston, represents.

Should the high court rule in the Democrats’ favor, Mace’s seat, currently rated as R+17 according to FiveThirtyEight, could become much more competitive. Even if the district doesn’t change, Mace may face a primary challenge from 2018 GOP nominee and former state Representative Katie Arrington. Should the court order a redraw and the seat become more competitive, Hilton Head Island Town General Counsel Mac Deford has already announced his candidacy for the Democratic nomination. 

Adjacent to the now-open 3rd CD, Rep. William Timmons, R-Greenville, who beat back a serious 4th District primary challenge in 2022 from three opponents, faces a more difficult opponent in the current election cycle. In the previous primary, he managed only 52.7% of the vote, avoiding falling below the 50% threshold that would have sent him into a secondary runoff election just two weeks after the primary.

Like Duncan, Timmons was battling charges of an extramarital affair that drove down his renomination percentage. This year, his more serious opponent is state Rep. Adam Morgan, R-Greenville, who looks to have a one-on-one opportunity against the incumbent.

Thus, with three of the state’s seven CDs seeing primary action, we will see an active June 11 election day. Should runoffs become necessary, the secondary election date is June 25. The South Carolina candidate filing deadline is April 1.

Suffolk’s Different View

Yesterday, we reported on an American Research Group survey that posted former President Donald Trump and ex-U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in a 40-40% tie for the coming New Hampshire primary on Jan. 23. Suffolk University’s new data release, however, has a much different take.

Their poll sees Trump with a substantial 16-point lead over Haley. Instead of a tie, Suffolk posts the division between the two candidates at 50-34%. The Suffolk results are closer to the three other polls released in January, making the ARG numbers, so far, the outlier.

Wicker’s Opponents

Candidate filing has closed in Mississippi, and an official candidate list has been released. While Republican Sen. Roger Wicker is a prohibitive favorite over the lone Democrat who filed, 2023 Secretary of State nominee Ty Pinkins, who received 40.5% of the vote against Republican incumbent Michael Watson in the November election, the senator does have Republican primary opposition.

State Rep. Dan Eubanks, R-Walls, and retired Marine Corps Colonel T. Ghannon Burton are both qualified candidates. While it is doubtful that either can raise sufficient funds to run a major campaign against Wicker, who has been in the Senate since the last day of 2007 after being elected six times to the U.S. House, all primary campaigns are worth watching. Mississippi has a runoff law, so Eubanks and Burton will attempt to keep the senator from receiving 50% of the vote in the March 12 primary election. Wicker remains a heavy favorite for renomination and reelection.

Ezell’s Primary Challenge

In 2022, then-Jackson County Sheriff Mike Ezell was one of six Republicans who challenged six-term Rep. Steven Palazzo in the GOP primary. The group forced Palazzo into a runoff election, and Ezell defeated him 54-46%. He then went on to record a landslide general election victory with 73% of the vote. Now, Ezell faces his own primary challenge.

With the Mississippi candidate filing now closed, Ezell has drawn two Republican opponents: local businessman Carl Boyanton, who ran in 2022 but received only 6% of the vote in the GOP primary election, and Army veteran Michael McGill. Ezell will be favored to win outright in the March 12 primary election, but this is another race to follow. A runoff will be held on April 2 should no candidate reach the 50% plateau. Ezell is favored for renomination and reelection in this southeastern Mississippi congressional district.

No Labels Party Wins Federal Ruling

Rather surprisingly, a federal judge has ruled in Arizona that the No Labels Party can bar candidates from running on their party line for races other than the presidency, even though the entity is an official Arizona political party. Democratic Secretary of State Adrian Fontes has pledged to appeal the ruling on behalf of the state. It seems difficult to imagine a similar ruling being rendered if the Republican or Democratic Parties were to make such a move.

Fontes, who said the ruling is “dead wrong,” argues that the “current decision will disenfranchise almost 19,000 registered Arizona voters, and if it stands, it could potentially derail the entire candidate nomination process.” If state candidates run under the No Labels party line, then the national party would have to disclose its donors under Arizona election law, something the national entity so far has been able to avoid. It remains to be seen if this ruling will be allowed to stand.

Jim Ellis, creator of The Ellis Insight website and senior political analyst for the Business-Industry Political Action Committee, analyzes and reports on U.S. electoral politics. He has a background in political consulting, managing political campaigns and action committees. Ellis is a regular speaker and media contributor on electoral topics, appearing on various radio shows and TV programs. He hosts Church Militant’s The Ellis Insight — a video podcast identifying emerging campaign and election trends.

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