COLUMBIA (AP) - The Republican challenging U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham is alleging someone tried to intimidate her candidacy by vandalizing her vehicle hours before the two met in a debate.
In a police report obtained by The Associated Press, Nancy Mace called police Tuesday afternoon to report that someone had scrawled an obscenity into the back door on the driver's side. According to police, Mace had been shopping in a store in Mount Pleasant, near Charleston, and did not see anyone follow her into the area.
Mace, a state representative, is seeking to oust U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham from the 1st District seat that spans much of South Carolina's southern coast. Cunningham surprised many in South Carolina when he edged out Republican Katie Arrington to put the 1st District in Democratic hands in 2018, the first flip of a South Carolina congressional seat from red to blue in decades.
Mace and Cunningham have been running in a close race that's been targeted by both parties as a must-win. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has been pouring money into the race, with ads decrying Mace's stances on health care and tax-related issues.
It's that acrimony, Mace told AP on Wednesday, that has led to situations like the one she experienced, while picking out a dress to wear for Tuesday night's debate with Cunningham.
"There have been multiple instances of that kind of behavior through the campaign; this was just the latest one," Mace said. "It feels the most violating because it's personal. This is my personal car that was parked in a parking lot for 20 minutes and was keyed with a profanity. It most definitely is an intimidation tactic."
Officers said they are seeking video footage from the surrounding area. The police report doesn't note that Mace told officers she felt political intimidation had been the cause behind the vandalism, although she told AP she did make that clear to police. A phone message left Wednesday with the responding officer was not immediately returned.
It's not the first time Mace said she has experienced intimidation during the campaign. This summer, after she secured the GOP nomination, Mace said local, state and federal law enforcement were involved in an investigation after someone flew cross-country to seek Mace out in her neighborhood on Daniel Island. Declining to give more information, Mace said that case is now closed.
"Those things happen, but this feels particularly invasive," Mace said.
Saying she had no reason to think that Cunningham or his campaign had been involved in the vandalism, Mace said she wanted the Democrat to condemn the behavior, whatever the source.
There have been other recent allegations of intimidation against Republicans in South Carolina. Last month, state Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick blamed the "radical left" for encouraging violent protests against police conduct across the county that led to someone shooting through an office window at the Lancaster County GOP office. No one was inside at the time.
"I think we're all ready for 2020 to be over," Mace said.
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