South Carolina House Candidate Is Seriously Injured in Crash
Posted June 23, 2018 4:11 p.m. EDT
Updated June 23, 2018 4:12 p.m. EDT
Katie Arrington, a South Carolina state lawmaker who this month defeated Rep. Mark Sanford in a House Republican primary, was seriously injured in a car crash Friday night, according to her spokesman.
Arrington and a friend were traveling to Hilton Head, where Arrington was scheduled to receive an award from a state medical organization Saturday morning, the spokesman, Michael Mule, said on the lawmaker’s social media accounts.
“Katie sustained a fracture in her back and several broken ribs, as well as injuries that required Katie to undergo major surgery including the removal of a portion of her small intestine and a portion of her colon,” a Facebook post said. “Additionally, the main artery in her legs has a partial collapse and will require a stent.”
Arrington was “awake and alert,” Mule said by phone Saturday. She was expected to have two more operations over the next couple of days, he said, adding, “She’s as tough as they come.”
Mike Biundo, one of Arrington’s consultants, said Saturday morning that “it was a rough night.”
He said he did not know how long her recovery might take. “As you can imagine, this is still an ongoing and fluid situation,” he said.
The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office said a two-car collision happened around 9 p.m. on Highway 17 near Charleston.
Arrington and her friend, Jacqueline Goff, 59, were traveling south when another driver traveling in the wrong direction hit their vehicle, Capt. Roger Antonio, a spokesman for the office, said in a statement. The driver of the other vehicle died, he said.
Arrington, 47, won a surprise upset against Sanford in his Charleston-area district after she ran a relentless campaign that took aim at his criticism of President Donald Trump.
“We are the party of President Donald J. Trump,” she told supporters after the returns made her victory clear on primary night and just hours after Trump endorsed her campaign with a tweet belittling Sanford.
“Mark Sanford has been very unhelpful to me in my campaign to MAGA. He is MIA and nothing but trouble,” Trump said on Twitter. “I fully endorse Katie Arrington for Congress in SC, a state I love. She is tough on crime and will continue our fight to lower taxes. VOTE Katie!”
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that his “thoughts and prayers” were with Arrington and those involved in the crash.
Arrington, who was serving her first term in the state Legislature, harnessed grass-roots anger toward Sanford over his attacks on Trump and lingering unease over his well-publicized marital infidelity.
The Democratic opponent she will face in the general election, Joe Cunningham, a lawyer, has assailed Arrington for her unswerving fealty to Trump.
After news of the crash, Cunningham said on Twitter on Saturday that he was suspending all campaign activities until further notice.
“Just hearing about the terrible accident that occurred overnight involving Katie Arrington,” he wrote. “Amanda and I are lifting her and her family up in prayer right now. Please join us.”
Rob Godfrey, a onetime aide to Nikki Haley, the former Republican governor of South Carolina, said news of the crash was “certainly something that gives everybody pause.”
Neither Arrington nor her challenger, Cunningham, was very well known, Godfrey said, but both “had demonstrated an ability to fire up their base of supporters, raise a significant amount of money and generate excitement nationally.”
Combine that with a national backdrop that is favorable for Democrats, he said, and the race has become “one of the ones to watch.”
“I think once Representative Arrington has had a chance to focus on the things that are important, and had a chance to recover, people will start to think about the political side of it again,” he said.
While it was far too early to speculate about whether Arrington would stay in the race, experts said that even if Republicans had to scramble to find a new nominee, it was unlikely that the open seat would go to a Democrat. South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District typically favors Republicans.
“It is an uphill battle for a Democrat to win,” said Chip Felkel, a political analyst and chief executive of the communications firm the Felkel Group. “It would take unique circumstances.”
Robert Oldendick, a professor of political science at the University of South Carolina, said Arrington had “a natural advantage” in the district. “So if she’s able to come out of this and resume campaigning, I think she’s pretty much a favorite,” he said.
If she decides not to or is unable to continue her campaign, that might give Cunningham “a little better” of a chance, he said.
“There is a speculation out there about the blue wave coming this November,” he said. “I don’t see any of that in South Carolina.”