South Carolina Democrat Krystle Matthews said she plans to do in 2022 what she did in 2018: Take on a Republican incumbent and win.

It is a challenge the state House member from Berkeley County formally announced on Tuesday, when she launched her U.S. Senate campaign against Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott. But to meet that challenge, Matthews said she is hitting the pavement early, aiming to raise millions of dollars and register more than 150,000 South Carolina voters, many of whom live in the state’s rural areas.

“We need someone vibrant, who is tireless and not afraid to have tough conversations,” Matthews, 40, said Tuesday, standing in front of the South Carolina State House, with House colleagues by her side. “We need someone who can work with Republicans but confront them when needed. Heck, some of my Republican colleagues in the State House like me as I do them, even when we fundamentally disagree. It is about having those hard conversations. I want to be that U.S. senator. I can be that U.S. senator.”

Matthews, a single mother of five who works at Boeing’s North Charleston campus, said she was inspired to run after watching families work and live amid the COVID-19 pandemic and said she wants to ensure working families have a seat at the table.

“I’ve seen her on the House floor take on issues that other people shy away from,” said state Rep. Wendy Brawley, D-Richland. “She will be the kind of champion that we need, not only here in South Carolina, but in Washington D.C. for families all across this nation.”

Matthews has never won a statewide race.

She was most recently elected to a second term in the House, a seat that represents parts of Berkeley and Charleston counties. She first won the seat in 2018, when she beat a four-term GOP incumbent.

Matthews said she also will run for her House seat in 2022.

Spartanburg Democratic Chairwoman Angela Geter has said she plans to run for the Senate seat, and Walterboro Republican Timothy Swain has said he intends to challenge Scott.

Taking on Scott, 55 — a popular politician in South Carolina who recently received an endorsement from an even more popular figure in the state, former President Donald Trump — will be a challenge for Matthews.

Unlike U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, who overcame his own election challenge last year against now Democratic National Committee chairman Jaime Harrison, Scott is a less polarizing politician. The only Black Republican in the U.S. Senate, Scott was raised in North Charleston by a single mother.

“It is most certainly not hard to make the argument against somebody who made it through the door and closed it behind them,” Matthews said.

Scott’s campaign declined to comment.

Scott was appointed to the Senate by former Gov. Nikki Haley in 2012, when he succeeded Jim DeMint. He won his first full term in 2016, raising nearly $13 million. He ended last year with $8 million in the bank.

Scott, who has said his 2022 Senate race would be his last, also has been named as a possible 2024 GOP presidential hopeful.

“All these doubting Thomases out here who say, ‘Why in the world is she doing this?’ I’ll tell you why, because she can win,” said the state House’s longest-serving member, Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg. “We’ve seen indications of races where there was a tremendous amount of money spent and still no victory, so if you’re coming into this thinking she can’t (win) … how about stay away.”

Matthews has leaned on a campaign team that helped elect the state’s first elected female sheriff, Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano. In attendance for Matthews’ announcement Tuesday was Christale Spain, who recently launched an all Black female political action committee aimed at registering and reengaging voters.

“Women are playing a significant role in the body politic in South Carolina,” said Trav Robertson, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party. “Obviously that means that women who decide to pick up the mantle and run for office are going to be the torchbearers for how … our state moves forward.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) has covered the S.C. State House and politics for The State since 2017. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013. She previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She has won reporting awards in South Carolina.
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