(Bloomberg) -- An evangelical pastor who as an early and vocal supporter of President Donald Trump said he’s entering the race to succeed Representative Trey Gowdy in South Carolina.
“We need to combat leftist, liberal ideology that’s dividing our nation. It’s creating dependency,” Mark Burns said in an interview. “We need to create opportunities over dependency -- dependency is what’s plaguing our low-income communities. As a black man, I’m able to say what white politicians cannot say because they don’t want to be labeled a racist.”
Burns, 38, said he’ll formally launch his campaign for the Republican nomination Friday in a video that highlights his connections to the president, including his fiery speech at the 2016 Republican National Convention, where Trump was nominated.
Gowdy announced last month he won’t seek re-election for a fifth term in his South Carolina district, which includes the cities of Greenville and Spartanburg. Gowdy got 67 percent of the vote in 2016 and the district is considered safely in Republican hands.
Burns serves as a member of Trump’s Faith Advisory Council and regularly appears on cable television news programs to promote or defend the president.
He’s also started to assemble a team of experienced political operatives, including Robert Cahaly, a veteran pollster, and Teresa Dailey, a Republican fundraiser who worked on Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential primary campaign. Both confirmed their roles in Burns’s campaign.
Burns has been meeting for months with donors as he sought to parlay his ties to Trump and conservative political groups into winning elected office. Last weekend, he met with donors at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Other Republicans who’ve said they’re running or considering a bid for the seat, according to the Greenville News, are state Senator William Timmons, state Representative Dan Hamilton and Joshua Kimbrell, a conservative radio host. The primary is scheduled for June 12.
Burns’s role during the campaign was controversial. He was forced to apologize after CNN reported that he falsely stated on his church’s website that he had a Bachelor of Science degree and served six years in the Army Reserve. He later provided proof that he served several years in the South Carolina National Guard, not the Reserve.
He said he expects to be subject to attacks and negative stories during the campaign.
“You guys in the media try to do the same thing to Trump," Burns said. "I say, ’Bring it on.’"
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