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Tom Rice
Rep. Tom Rice at a temporary housing facility, S.C., on Feb. 24, 2022.Meg Kinnard / AP file

Primary voters reject another member of the GOP’s Impeachment 10

Ten House Republicans voted for Donald Trump’s impeachment last year. Four of them are retiring, and one just got crushed in a GOP primary.


As Primary Day neared in South Carolina, Rep. Tom Rice realized his career was in jeopardy. Facing a far-right backlash after having voted to impeach Donald Trump early last year, the Republican incumbent aired a campaign ad urging voters to put “progress over pettiness” and “results over revenge.”

Yesterday, GOP voters in South Carolina’s 7th congressional district said pettiness and revenge suits them just fine. NBC News reported overnight:

Rep. Tom Rice, targeted by former President Donald Trump for voting to impeach him after the Capitol riot, was defeated by a Trump-backed challenger in South Carolina Tuesday night.... Rice’s primary defeat in the state’s 7th Congressional District at the hands of state Rep. Russell Fry marks the first time this election cycle that a pro-impeachment Republican has lost at the ballot box. Rice’s loss also delivered Trump his first victory against an incumbent this year.

The congressman didn’t just lose; he got crushed. With just about all of the votes tallied, it looks like Fry — who’s insisted that it’s “very clear” to him that the 2020 election “was rigged,” reality be damned — defeated Rice by more than 26 points. In fact, Fry appears to have won by a 2-to-1 margin over the incumbent.

With that kind of defeat, one might assume that Rice had committed some kind of horrible crime, leaving him scandal-plagued and unable to seriously compete. And from a Trumpian perspective, that’s precisely what happened: Rice’s pro-impeachment vote was his horrible crime.

One of the things that made Rice so unique was his approach to defending his own record. After voting for Trump’s impeachment in the aftermath of the Jan. 6 attack, the South Carolina Republican faced immediate pushback, and he had plenty of opportunities to express regret and walk it all back.

Instead, Rice did the opposite. He owned his vote. He presented himself as a principled conservative who honored his conscience and his deeply held beliefs in the Constitution and the rule of law. Rice even insisted that his impeachment vote was proof of his conservatism.

“I did it then,” he told The New York Times in an interview last week. “And I will do it tomorrow. And I’ll do it the next day or the day after that. I have a duty to uphold the Constitution. And that is what I did.”

Similarly, at a debate last month, the incumbent explained his perspective in an eloquent and insightful set of unscripted remarks. On Twitter, Rice’s comments were viewed more than 1 million times.

The trouble, of course, was that too many of those viewers were Democrats.

Rice has never been a moderate on the issues, and during Trump’s presidency, the congressman voted with the Republican White House more than 94 percent of the time. But among primary voters, that wasn’t enough

As for the rest of the Impeachment 10 — the contingent of House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump last year — four are retiring: Ohio’s Anthony Gonzalez, New York’s John Katko, Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger, and Michigan’s Fred Upton. Rice becomes the fifth.

As for the “who’s next” question, circling back to our earlier coverage, these are the other five members (in alphabetical order):

  • Washington’s Jaime Herrera Beutler is running for re-election in a district in which her local Republican Party formally censured her for holding Trump accountable. She’s facing a primary challenger who’s received the former president’s endorsement.
  • Wyoming’s Liz Cheney has been formally rejected by the Republican National Committee, and her House Republican colleagues have endorsed — and extended financial support to — her GOP primary rival.
  • Michigan’s Rep. Peter Meijer is facing multiple primary challengers, one of whom has received Trump’s backing. The former president held a rally this past weekend in which he mocked the congressman over the spelling of his name.
  • Washington’s Dan Newhouse is facing multiple primary challengers, one of whom has received Trump’s backing.
  • California’s David Valadao, whose district supported President Joe Biden in 2020, not only faced a Republican rival, he also found that his district’s lines were redrawn in unfriendly ways. His primary was last week, and as of this morning, the race has not yet been called.

It is quite possible that of the House Republicans’ Impeachment 10, none of these members will be on Capitol Hill in the new year. Watch this space.