Who Is Joe Cunningham?

June 18, 2018, 11:00 am EST | Share:

CHARLESTON, SC (MEGAN RIVERS, WTAT-TV) — He’s a new father and the Democratic candidate for the 1st Congressional District, but who is Joe Cunningham?

The youngest of five boys, Cunningham had no choice but to grow up tough. “We had a pretty rowdy house growing up, you learn to take a punch and learn to throw one too,” he said of learning about life from his family.

A Kentucky Blueblood, he moved to the Holy City 20 years ago to attend the College of Charleston. He lived above Jestine’s Kitchen on Meeting Street, according to his website, and fell in love with the area and everything it had to offer.

The son of a lawyer and publisher, Cunningham worked his way through college. He was a runner for a small law firm on Broad Street and worked as a deckhand in the summer.

“I would ship out in tugs, barges, I.T.B.’s (Integrated Tugs and Barges), and worked to pay for my tuition, always went out to sea,” he explained.

His education led him away from the Lowcountry for a period of time. “I wanted to go into engineering. College of Charleston didn’t have that program so I transferred out and got my bachelors in Science and Ocean Engineering from Florida Atlantic University,” said.

There, he worked with local, state and federal officials, along with environmental groups, to ensure development did not negatively impact our natural resources.

It was then he would meet his future wife.

“This girl gets hired as a stewardess, her name is Amanda. She joined the boat, we drop the lines and head to the South Pacific. A spark happened and the rest is history,” he said.

Cunningham later returned to pursue a degree in law. “I started practicing law as soon as I got out (of college) here in downtown Charleston,” he said.

Joe and Amanda married soon after finishing law school. He began working at a small firm here in the Lowcountry where he practices construction law, representing both Plaintiffs and Defendants.

Sometime after announcing his campaign, baby Boone burst onto the scene. Becoming a father only fueled Cunningham’s political fire.

“I’m not the kind of person who just likes to complain on the sidelines. I want to step into the arena,” he said.

“After seeing what’s going on with the traffic here in the Lowcountry, nothing gets better, everything gets worse. We look at the rising cost of healthcare, we get the bills just like every other family, nothing gets better. The cost of higher education, nothing gets better. We get student loan bills every month. So, we are concerned.”

He seemed unphased by his opponent, Katie Arrington, being backed by the President.

“If she wants to make this election about Trump, and her race about Trump, that’s fine. I’m going to make it about the people here in the first district,” he said.

But if decisions are made in support of the Lowcountry, he’ll be in favor. “If there is a solution brought forward that’s about infrastructure or about the problems we face here in the Lowcountry, if it comes from President Trump, I’ll support it. If he proposes something bad like opening up out shorelines to off-shore drilling, I’m going to fight him tooth and nail on it because I deeply appreciate our resources and I’ve worked in that field.”

The 36-year-old is excited about the campaign trail and says he’ll to continue to block out any distractions.

Like recent comments made by the head of the Charleston County Republican Party Chairman, Larry Kobrovsky, who boldly claimed Cunningham was “abandoning his child” by running for office.

Words that spoke outrage on both sides of the aisle and called for an apology from Kobrovsky.

Regardless, Cunningham says he’s ready to get to work for the Lowcountry and marches onward to the November mid-term election.

FOX 24 also spoke with the Republican candidate, Katie Arrington, you can find that interview by clicking here.