SC voters poised to send a second Republican woman to Congress. She’s pledged to Trump

Gun Rights

ANDERSON — If oddsmakers are correct, South Carolina is on the verge of sending a second Republican woman to Congress.

Sheri Biggs’ GOP primary win over Donald Trump-endorsed pastor Mark Burns in an Upstate congressional district sets her up to join Charleston’s U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace in Washington, giving Republican women two seats on the state’s seven-member House delegation.

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Biggs must first get past Democrat Bryon Best, a paint store manager in Greenwood, in the general election Nov. 5. She is heavily favored to win the deep red 3rd Congressional District where Trump carried 68 percent of the turnout in 2020. 

Biggs’ victory came even as Republican voters elsewhere ousted the last of the state’s GOP “sister senators” known for fighting to preserve abortion access. Lexington state Sen. Katrina Shealy lost in a blowout runoff June 25. 

Biggs, a family nurse, did have to eke out her win in the June 25 runoff with Burns with a 2-point, 51 percent to 49 percent win, according to unofficial election results. 

In the runoff, Biggs struck a delicate balance of campaigning on her gender — or rather, choosing mostly not to. She identified herself as a wife and mother but leaned more on her conservative platform, like helping Trump build a wall at the Southern border and curbing runaway spending in Washington.

 Being a woman can be an advantage in Democratic primaries nationwide, but the same is not always true for Republican women, said Danielle Vinson, a professor of politics and international affairs at Furman University. 

“Conservative women are still running primarily as conservatives and not as women … for the very reason the sister senators are flying out of office,” Vinson said. 

Sheri Biggs headshot (copy)

SC-03 congressional candidate Sheri Biggs. 

Who is Sheri Biggs?

Biggs is originally from rural Mississippi and lives in Seneca with her husband, Bill. She is an Air National Guard lieutenant colonel and served as a medical crew director of five combat missions and three combat support missions in Afghanistan.

She also has over two decades of experience working in health care in the intensive care unit and nursing home administration.

Her background in health care largely shaped her campaign messaging based on “heal our nation.” As Biggs often tells people, “our nation is hurting mentally, fiscally and spiritually.” 

Biggs did not respond to phone calls from The Post and Courier on June 26 the day after her win, but her messaging in the 24 hours that followed her victory echoed campaign themes of “draining the swamp” and fighting for conservative values. 

“I stand here ready to fight for our communities and deliver results. I stand here ready to help win the border war, protect tax dollars, drain the swamp, and defend our conservative values,” Biggs said in a statement. “I stand here ready to not only win this seat in November but also to help President Trump win back the White House in November.”

While Trump endorsed Burns, who had billed himself as Trump’s pastor, Biggs is likewise a vocal Trump supporter. Her campaign website prominently features photos of her posing with him, and she has promised to work closely with Trump if he wins again. Still, it is an endorsement loss in the state for Trump.

The difference in the runoff was about 1,110 votes out of 55,000 cast.

Trump policies have shaped her platforms. She has called for more funding at the border and ending the catch-and-release of illegal immigrants. She is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and she is vocally anti-abortion. 

“I am proud of what South Carolina did in support of life,” she said in April, referencing the state’s six-week abortion ban. “I am a health care professional, but more than that I’m a Christian. And I am pro-life, from the beginning to the end.”

Emphasizing values over gender makes sense in conservative places, Vinson said. Candidates who lean into their gender risk isolating voters who could make assumptions about where candidates stand on hot-button issues like abortion. 

Mark Burns 3rd District concession speech 06-25-2024 (8).JPG (copy)

Mark Burns delivers his concession speech at Unique Events in Easley after losing the runoff for the SC-03 congressional district to Sheri Biggs. 

“That’s where being a woman in the Republican Party right now can get dicey,” Vinson said. “If it makes you seem squishy on abortion issues or things like that in a conservative state or conservative district like we have here in South Carolina, that’s a real problem.”

Burns and Biggs had a close race 

Biggs won the majority of counties, including Oconee, Anderson, Abbeville, Greenwood, McCormick, Edgefield, Saluda and Newberry. Burns prevailed in Laurens, Greenville and Pickens counties near his Easley home base.

Pickens, in particular, was a bright spot for him: over 14,000 people voted there, and Burns took better than half of the vote. 

Burns ultimately blamed his losing performance on attack ads from Biggs’ camp that spread “vicious lies” about him, he said. One PAC, America Leads Action, has spent nearly $40,000 in ads opposing Burns, according to campaign finance returns, ranging from social media ads to text messages largely focused on Burns’ record voting for Democratic candidates.

“Mark Burns can’t be trusted,” the group claimed in one ad published June 16. “Reject his history of lies and voting for Democrats in the June 25th Republican runoff!”

With the race over, Burns said he plans to endorse Biggs in the November election.

“This is not about dividedness,” Burns told The Post and Courier on June 25. “If we’re not careful in South Carolina, this could turn into a purple state.”

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