Just about 10 days ago, Katie Arrington was celebrating a hard-fought electoral win. The conservative South Carolina state lawmaker had dealt longtime incumbent Rep. Mark Sanford a surprising defeat in the state’s congressional GOP primary.
Now Arrington, 47, is in the hospital facing quite another kind of fight.
A friend had been driving the U.S. House hopeful Friday night when their car was struck by a vehicle driving the wrong direction on the highway, according to her spokesperson.
Capt. Roger Antonio of the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office tells NPR the driver of the other vehicle died at the scene in Adams Run, S.C. Arrington’s friend, 59-year-old Jacqueline Goff, has been hospitalized with serious injuries.
Arrington, for her part, emerged with an array of serious injuries of her own — including a fracture in her back, several broken ribs and a partial collapse in “the main artery in her legs.” In a statement posted to Arrington’s Twitter account, the spokesperson said the state representative needed major surgery to remove “a portion of her small intestine and a portion of her colon.”
Further surgeries are likely in the next two weeks she expects to spend hospitalized.
Katie was the passenger in the car traveling southbound on Highway 17, when a vehicle traveling in the wrong direction – northbound in the southbound lanes of Highway 17 – struck the vehicle containing Katie and her friend.
— Rep. Katie Arrington (@karringtonsc) June 23, 2018
The collision threatens to derail Arrington’s promising political career, just a week and a half after her upset of Sanford grabbed national attention.
As NPR’s Jessica Taylor reported, Arrington drew a full-throated endorsement from President Trump, whom Sanford has frequently criticized. Sanford, a longtime member of the House and former South Carolina governor, had pulled through a national scandal when he disappeared from the state to pursue an extramarital affair in 2009 — but his political prospects could not outlast his public disputes with the president.
“The first question anybody seemed to ask whenever we went to their door was, ‘Do you support our president or do you not?’ ” she told Fox Business Network after winning the primary. “Having somebody in Washington with the backbone to stand with our president was something that people in South Carolina wanted.”
She begins the general election with a strong advantage in the deeply red district, but the campaign has halted in the wake of the collision — on both sides of the aisle. Her Democratic competitor, attorney Joe Cunningham, tweeted Saturday that he would be suspending “all campaign activities until further notice.”
He and his wife “are lifting [Arrington] and her family up in prayer right now,” he said.
Arrington’s spokesperson said it is faith and family that is helping her recover — and vowed that she would be back at work before long.
“As we all know, Katie Arrington is an extremely strong woman and has tremendous faith and an incredibly supportive family,” the statement said.
“And it is from her strong faith, the support of her family, the prayers and support of our community, and the incredible doctors and staff at the hospital that she is certain she will be back to work for our state soon.”