Religion, politics and engineering have helped shape Chad Connelly’s life.
Through all the years, though, he hasn’t held a position in political office. That all could change if he prevails in the special election to replace former Rep. Mick Mulvaney in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Mulvaney was tabbed by President Donald Trump to direct the federal budget, leaving the seat vacant.
Connelly, a military veteran and the former chairman of South Carolina’s Republican Party, is one of 15 candidates vying for the seat.
The primary for the special election is May 2, while the general election is set for June 20. If one candidate fails to get at least 50 percent support in the primary, however, it would move to a May 16 runoff election between the top-two candidates from each party.
Connelly is one of the frontrunners in the GOP field, which consists of seven candidates.
Here’s what you need to know about Connelly:
1. Connelly Served As South Carolina’s GOP Chairman
Connelly has seen a steady rise in South Carolina politics throughout his career.
On May 7, 2011, he was elected chairman of the South Carolina Republican party. He held the position for over two years until June 2013 when he stepped down so that he could become a senior GOP staffer for the Republican National Committee.
A report by The Washington Times on April 27 said that Connelly was on the RNC’s payroll when he announced he was running for the 5th district seat in the U.S. House.
The article said that he was paid $120,000 in 2016 and $31,000 so far this year as the GOP’s director of faith management. He resigned from the position in March to start campaigning for Mulvaney’s old seat in the U.S. House.
2. Connelly Is an Army Veteran & Worked as an Engineer
It didn’t seem as if working in politics was in Connelly’s future early on. He attended Clemson University and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in 1985.
Immediately after graduating from college, Connelly started his professional life as a 2nd Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He served as a tank officer and platoon commander for the Army and later enlisted in the National Guard.
After serving in the military, he got a job at a national engineering firm — Professional Service Industries — where he managed about 100 employees. He did that for eight years before starting his own engineering business, called Connelly Enterprises. He served as the company’s president from December 1990 until June 2003, his LinkedIn profile said.
Shortly after that, he found himself in South Carolina politics. He worked as a state director and consultant for South Carolinians for Responsible Government, where he went around the state giving speeches to Christian and homeschool organizations in an attempt to start grassroots activism for the school choice movement.
3. He Was a Frequent Speaker at Tea Party Events
In addition to his speaking roles dedicated to the school choice movement, Connelly founded the Foundation for American Restoration, a nonprofit organization that’s Christian-based.
When the Tea Party experienced a rise in popularity back in 2010, Connelly was one of the people at the forefront in South Carolina. He went around the state giving many speeches dedicated to the Tea Party’s platform and has been endorsed in the race for the 5th district seat by several members of the Tea Party in South Carolina.
A book titled The Teavandelicals: The Inside Story of How the Evangelicals and the Tea Party are Taking Back America spoke about how as president and founder of the group, Connelly “pontificates about American Christian history and its connection to a vibrant free-market society.”
The author, David Brody, said that one day Connelly told him that God is the focus of his political desires.
“My talks have been extremely Christ-centered and God-themed,” Connelly said to Brody in the book. “And I know that those events that I’ve been to focused on the big picture, and God is the cornerstone of America and God is one of the major reasons our country has been successful.”
4. Connelly’s Been a Regular Commentator On Cable News Channels
Serving as the head of South Carolina’s Republican Party, Connelly was a mainstay on news programs during the 2012 presidential election.
As Connelly continues to pursue the seat in the U.S. House, his beliefs have come to the forefront. On his website, he lists “standing with Israel” as one of the most important issues.
“We need a president and a Congress who aren’t afraid to stand up and defend Israel,” he wrote on his website.
One of the other things that he lists as a vital issue is “reducing regulations.”
“I don’t know about you, but if the Lord can govern existence with less than it takes the federal government to regulate a supposedly “free” market, I think it’s time we take one large step back and reevaluate the system,” he writes.
He carries many of the same core beliefs as Republicans and Trump in general, including building a border wall between the U.S. and Mexican border and reforming the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
5. Connelly Earned a Degree In Civil Engineering & Has 4 Children
Outside of politics, Connelly is also an author and a father.
He lives in Prosperity, South Carolina with his wife Dana and their four children: CJ, Leigha, Bennett and Summer. It’s there that he still serves as a Sunday school teacher and a deacon.
Connelly wrote a book that was published in 2002 titled Freedom Tide: Now You Can Make a Difference!. The novel encourages readers to stand up and make a difference in America, citing people “turning their backs on the solid values that once formed the bedrock of American society” as the reason.