By Sam Spence
S.C. Rep. Krystle Matthews announced April 13 that she’s mounting a campaign to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott in 2022.
After Democratic darling Jaime Harrison lost to U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham by more than 10% in a national-profile race during a presidential election year, Matthews hopes she can tip the scales for Democrats next year.
But, it will be a tall order. An engineering planner for Boeing and a single mother of four, Matthews has never run a statewide race and was just reelected to her Berkeley County district for the first time last year. In each of her two runs for state House, she’s won with less than 9,000 votes. In his unsuccessful bid, Harrison managed to pull in 1.1 million voters.
Scott is finishing his first full term as a U.S. senator after being appointed by Gov. Nikki Haley in 2013.
The City Paper caught up with Matthews the morning after Scott delivered the national GOP response to President Joe Biden’s address to Congress.
City Paper: What did you think of
Sen. Scott’s response to Biden’s speech?
Krystle Matthews: His response was just horribly staining. It’s wildly ironic that while delivering an extremely contrasting speech of his own, he would call the president divisive. But, this is typical behavior of what we’ve seen, and so people are tired of it.
CP: Was there anything in particular that you took issue with?
KM: Saying America isn’t racist. Do you know how many white people have inboxed me in the last 24 hours saying, “I’m white, and I know America is racist.” And the god-awful pandering of the line, “cotton field to Congress,” I mean … Because Black people are not smart enough to know that he’s pandering, right? We’re smarter than that.
CP: What kinds of things were people messaging you?
KM: They were just saying that it’s the same old rhetoric, the same old Republican rhetoric. And, some of them were even Republicans saying, “Look, we know that what he’s saying is for the base.” And, that’s not what we need here in South Carolina. We need somebody who’s actively addressing the issues.
Based on my reputation in the state house, they know that I’m not easily swayed without information. I have to read everything. I’m known for that … because I want to make sure that I give the input that I have on whether or not I think something can be better, or whether I think something’s going to be problematic. But, we don’t have too much of that.
People are very emotional when it comes to politics. What I find is that most of the time we agree on the problem, and we disagree on the solution, but there’s always a way we can make it better.
CP: What have you learned since you were first elected in 2018?
KM: If I could summarize it to one word, I would say the biggest thing that we are is a resource. Outside of voting for laws and things like that, one of the biggest attributes of being a state representative is being able to be a resource and help people unravel the issues that they’re having back home.
CP: If you win a Democratic primary, you would be the first S.C. woman nominated to run for U.S. Senate since Inez Tenenbaum in 2004. What’s the significance of that?
KM: Well, I would say this: The Senate has two seats. That should reflect our state as a whole. And right now, the two people in them are pretty much the same. So, if, over half of the state is women, about 40% of the state is single parents and a large majority of this state is working families, who better than me?
CP: When did you decide to jump into the race?
KM: I decided a few months ago, after sitting and just being frustrated with the fact that I didn’t feel like working families had a voice at the table.
CP: In his response, Sen. Scott mentioned his work on police reform — he’s been kind of sparring with U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and others proposing police reform bills in the Senate. What specific policy disagreements do you have with Scott on the way he has approached police reform?
KM: I’m still fleshing out his bill on police reform so I don’t want to comment on the bill itself. But, I would like to say that we do need to reimagine the way we do policing. You know, our police have now turned into a little bit of everything from mental health counselors to marriage counselors. So, I really feel like that’s something that is going to take a long time to flesh out, the problem didn’t happen overnight and it won’t be unraveled overnight.
CP: Politico described Scott as “embodying the soul and consciousness of the Republican Party on issues of racial justice.” What do you think of that framing, and do you think he represents anything different from his colleagues?
KM: No, he doesn’t. He’s an opportunist. If you want to know what the Black community feels about Tim Scott, you should probably start going and asking the Black community what they feel about Tim Scott because I’m pretty sure nobody would say that he’s a representation of us.