SC-04: Republican Rep. William Timmons, who is in his third term representing South Carolina's conservative 4th District, has earned a primary challenge from state Rep. Adam Morgan, who chairs his own chamber's far-right Freedom Caucus.
Morgan avoided leveling criticisms of the incumbent in his launch, but his most prominent endorser didn't hesitate. Ultra-conservative Rep. Ralph Norman, who represents the neighboring 5th District and is one of the most implacable extremists in Congress, castigated Timmons for "protecting former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy," according to the Greenville News' Devyani Chhetri. (Timmons voted to keep McCarthy as speaker in the historic early October vote that ousted him from the job, but Norman did as well.)
Timmons himself fired back at his new opponent in unusually harsh terms. While incumbents often act as though challengers are beneath their notice, Timmons eschewed that approach. "Adam's greatest 'legislative accomplishments' are filing a lawsuit and abandoning the Republican Party to form a third-party caucus that shrank in size under his 'leadership,'" he said in a statement.
Last year, Morgan led several rebel lawmakers in creating the state House's Freedom Caucus, a breakaway group modeled after its congressional counterpart that has accused GOP leaders of failing to pursue a sufficiently conservative agenda. Their accomplishments on the legislative front have been minimal, however, with one establishment Republican dismissing the faction as little more than "a headache on social media."
Chhetri explains that this local version of the Freedom Caucus was the "brain-child" of Mark Meadows, Donald Trump's former chief of staff who was indicted by Georgia prosecutors for attempting to overturn the 2020 election. But before he served Trump, Meadows was a founder of the congressional Freedom Caucus (of which Norman is also a member). Chhetri adds that Morgan's bloc has been funded in part by a nonprofit run by former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, another hard-liner who was notorious for feuding with colleagues.
But while Morgan may not have much to show for his efforts to usher in a conservative utopia, Timmons could nonetheless be vulnerable. Last year, he won his primary with just 53% of the vote while three little-known candidates split the remainder. Shortly after that election, he appeared on several radio shows to address rumors that he'd used the powers of his office to conceal an extra-marital affair. While he denied that he'd abused his position, he didn't deny being unfaithful to his wife, who filed for divorce shortly after he won reelection that fall.
With a much higher-profile opponent this time, the outcome could be very different, especially in a one-on-one race. But even if other critics also jump in, Timmons cannot escape with only a plurality of the vote, since South Carolina requires runoffs if no one wins a majority in the primary.