From high school dropout to graduate of The Citadel to congresswoman, Nancy Mace's backstory is as inspiring as biographies get. But the inspirational journey to who she is, where she stands and what she stands for is far from a storybook transformation.
The Daniel Island resident and representative for South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, who was sworn in Jan. 3, is a lady of many firsts.
In addition to being the first U.S. congressperson from Daniel Island, she was the first female to graduate from The Citadel’s Corps of Cadets, with magna cum laude honors in 1999. Now, in 2021, she is shattering yet another glass ceiling among her peers. Mace is the first Republican female from South Carolina to assume a congressional seat as a member of the 117th U.S. Congress.
Arriving at this juncture was not easy, and Mace has been publicly forthcoming about her life’s journey. Her formative years as an adolescent weren’t idyllic. The Goose Creek native was a sexual assault victim at 16 years old. She also dropped out of Stratford High
School at the age of 17, where she then went to wait tables at a Waffle House off Exit 203 on College Park Road in Ladson.
Her difficult early experiences shaped her into the passionate, no-nonsense, single working mother of two school-aged children that she is today.
Mace did go back to get her high school diploma by enrolling in classes at Trident Technical College before moving on to The Citadel.
In 2017, Mace broke through into the political realm as a representative for S.C. House of Representatives District 99, going on to challenge incumbent Democrat U.S. Representative Joe Cunningham to win the 2020 election.
Recently, Mace was again forthcoming as she sat down with The Daniel Island News for an open discussion about her life, outlook and political goals. Here’s where Mace stands on the following fronts, from hyper-local Lowcountry topics to her congressional agenda in Washington, D.C.
Lowcountry and SC priorities
Roads, bridges and transportation are at the top of Mace’s mind. She noted how an average of 40-50 people are moving to Charleston daily, pre-COVID-19.
When the Don Holt Bridge’s tarp collapsed in July 2017, Mace said she was out there asking the “hard questions” to improve the Lowcountry’s infrastructure. She noted she will always be an advocate on this forefront and will be proactive to hopefully prevent future incidents such as that.
Mace received the 2019 Taxpayer Hero Award from the South Carolina Club for Growth.
• Offshore drilling
In the November 2020 general election, Mace maintained her platform on saving the natural beauty of South Carolina with a focus on banning offshore drilling off the coast of the state. She co-sponsored a South Carolina anti-offshore drilling bill in 2018 and during her U.S. congressional run, she broke ties with President Donald Trump’s plan to offer oil drilling leases off of South Carolina beaches.
Mace said that preventing oil exploration and offshore drilling is an issue for which she will continue to be a strong advocate.
• Law enforcement
Mace believes it’s important that law enforcement has the proper training and resources to be successful. In May 2020, Mace's prison reform bill, which ended the shackling of pregnant mothers in prison, was signed into law by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.
Mace plans to revisit federal drug sentencing guidelines in the future.
In 2019, Mace successfully advocated for the inclusion of exceptions for rape and incest in a fetal heartbeat abortion ban bill that passed in the S.C. State House. She has stated that she opposes abortion but does not believe the government has the right to tell a victim of rape or incest they do not have the right to choose.
• Education: School-choice
In October 2020, McMaster attempted to spend $32 million in federal coronavirus aid on grants to help parents afford K-12 private school tuition. In the fall, the South Carolina Supreme Court rendered a unanimous verdict that it violated the state’s constitution.
While state Republicans fought for a reconsideration, the court upheld its original decision in early December.
“I am a firm believer that no child should be left in a broken school system,” Mace said. “Everyone, regardless of their economic situation, should have access to the best educational opportunities afforded to them.”
She added that Congress needs to look at providing vouchers and tax credits, allowing low-income children to attend whatever schools they choose — charters, private schools or public schools.
In an Aug. 11, 2020, op-ed in The Daniel Island News titled, “Pandemic makes school choice more important than ever,” Mace further opined her policy views on the issue.
“I believe the time has come to change the way we think about how we fund education and how we allow parents to determine where their kids are educated,” Mace continued. “As a mother, I know when parents only have one choice, they have no choices. But school choice is meaningless without choice in funding.”
For this reason, Mace supported McMaster and multiple proposals in Columbia and Washington that support private-school choice. She viewed this as a one-time scholarship for low-income students to attend a private school if they wish.
In 2019, Mace received the Champion Award from Palmetto Goodwill for her efforts in
When asked if Mace plans to work on both sides of the political aisle to accomplish objectives or take a hardline party stance, her answer might shock some party loyalists. Particularly as one of the most staunch fiscally conservative members of the General
Assembly and one of the most pro-conservation lawmakers in the state with a 100% rating with Conservation Voters of South Carolina.
“Washington hasn’t worked for a long time because both sides have failed to listen to each other,” Mace said. “It’s become a sounding board for the extremes on both sides.”
Mace will be joining the Problem Solvers Caucus, a group of Republican and Democratic legislators that work to get to "yes" to help solve some of the country’s most pressing challenges.
As far as the Electoral College is concerned, Mace said she would not vote to overturn the results from the recent presidential election.
“I do not believe Congress somehow knows better than voters and overturning the results of the Electoral College assumes just that,” Mace continued. “The principles of federalism and the idea of preserving the Electoral College demand that we respect the decisions the states make in choosing their electors.”
Top-of-the-line congressional topics that Mace foresees will pose as the most challenging:
• The COVID-19 pandemic
• Restoring the economy and job growth
• Holding Washington accountable for out-of-control spending on both sides of the aisle
• Restoring fiscal responsibility and being good stewards of your tax dollars
• Strengthening environmental protections with free-market solutions.
“This is the honor of my lifetime,” Mace added. “Even if folks here on (Daniel Island) didn’t vote for me on election night, I’m just asking for a chance. A chance to prove that I will be a thoughtful leader, a good listener and that I will be compassionate in every way ... No one will work harder for the residents of South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District because they’ve earned it.”