Lin Wood’s smash-mouth bid to become South Carolina party chair is rattling one of the Republican Party’s most important states.
Lin Wood played a starring role in Georgia’s GOP civil war after the 2020 elections. Now the pro-Trump lawyer is taking his roadshow to South Carolina, where he’s campaigning as a “chaos” candidate to lead the state Republican Party.
Wood, who transformed from a top Atlanta trial lawyer to a leading election conspiracy theorist in November, moved to South Carolina in February. Then the firebrand lawyer shocked the political establishment in one of the GOP’s most important state parties by mounting an unexpectedly strong challenge to the incumbent chairman, Drew McKissick.
The outcome has out-sized implications because of South Carolina’s role in GOP presidential primaries — the state hosts the first primary in the South, and almost always votes for the eventual Republican nominee. It’s emblematic of broader divisions between longtime GOP members and those brought into the Republican fold by Donald Trump, who remains the party’s center of gravity.
Trump has already endorsed McKissick, who went so far as to cancel the 2020 presidential primary in the state when the president ran for reelection. But in Wood’s telling, it was he who carried the true Trump mantle by fighting to overturn election results in Georgia while McKissick did too little to add his voice to the “Stop the Steal” movement.
An adherent of the QAnon conspiracy theory, Wood contends Trump won the election in a landslide and is still president. Speaking without notes in a style that blends the skills of a preacher and an accomplished trial lawyer, Wood — who first gained fame as the attorney for the family of JonBenét Ramsey and also for Richard Jewell, who was wrongly accused of the Atlanta Olympics bombing — has built a candidacy around his support of Trump, whom Wood said he supported in 2016 because he thought chaos was good for the country.
“We need some chaos in the Republican Party in South Carolina. Somebody needs to shake it up,” Wood said Tuesday in the city of Aiken to applause and laughter. “So here I am, Mr. Shaker.”
A day earlier, Wood heckled McKissick during a speech at a Hampton County GOP event and suggested the incumbent doesn’t care about stopping pedophiles. The two then had a face-to-face confrontation where McKissick swiped at Wood for raising vague allegations about “Chinese pornography.” The chairman’s supporters inevitably describe Wood as deranged, pointing out that the Georgia Bar is investigating his conduct and wants Wood to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
McKissick’s backers also blame Wood for the GOP strife in Georgia and the party’s loss of two Senate seats there on Jan. 5 — Wood and other pro-Trump activists had suggested boycotting the election because they believed Republican Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue didn’t do enough to question the November election results.
But former South Carolina Republican Gov. Mark Sanford said Republicans are blame-shifting from the root of the problem: Trump, his spreading of conspiracy theories and his destabilizing influence on the GOP overall.
Sanford marveled at how Wood could gain traction against McKissick, who recently oversaw an election where Republicans flipped a congressional seat, sheriffs races, and state House and Senate seats. Sanford, who made a brief 2020 primary challenge against Trump, pointed out that McKissick canceled the 2020 GOP primary in the state, robbing the state’s former governor of the opportunity to have a forum to discuss traditional conservative issues like the national debt and deficits.
“His candidacy is yet another manifestation of the Trump phenomenon. It’s varying degrees of crazy, a cult of personality,” Sanford said.
“What this really says is the party is wrestling with its own Trump demons. It’s one version of Trump versus another, more rabid version of Trump, but it’s all crazy,” Sanford said. “The fact that Wood can run and there’s any appetite for a new guy from out of state who has not been a part of GOP politics in South Carolina is unusual, but that fits with the era of Trump.”
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