Beginning his legal career as a clerk he worked for John P. Gardner on the South Carolina Court of Appeals and went on to serve George Ross Anderson, Jr., a judge of US District Court.
He then started practicing privately and in April 1994 he was chosen as a US federal prosecutor. His tenure in such capacity saw him prosecuting a wide range of federal crimes including cases associated with child pornography, murder, bank robberies and narcotics trafficking rings among others.
He was successful in prosecuting one of ‘America’s Most Wanted’ suspects J. Mark Allen that won him the Postal Inspector’s Award. As a federal prosecutor, he also earned highest performance ratings successively for two years.
In order to run for 7th Circuit Solicitor, Gowdy quit the United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) in February 2000. In the Republican primary he beat incumbent Solicitor Holman Gossett while in the general election he ran unopposed thus becoming the Solicitor for South Carolina's 7th Judicial Circuit.
Leading an office of twenty-five attorneys, Gowdy took several initiatives as 7th Circuit Solicitor including setting up a Worthless Check Program and a Violence Against Women Task Force, putting into action a Drug Mother Protocol; and expanding Drug Court.
He got re-elected unopposed in 2004 and in 2008. While serving the position he featured in two episodes of the American documentary-style series ‘Forensic Files’; in the American weekly TV news magazine/reality legal show ‘Dateline NBC’; and in the public TV network ‘South Carolina Educational Television’.
Among the criminal cases he prosecuted there were seven death penalty cases.
Gowdy declared his intent to run for the US House of Representatives elections from South Carolina's 4th congressional district in summer 2009, challenging incumbent Republican US Congressman, Bob Inglis.
During the June 2010 primary elections, Gowdy earned 39% votes while Inglis and other challengers namely Jim Lee, David L. Thomas and Christina Jeffrey earned 27%, 14%, 13% and 7% votes respectively.
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As he couldn’t garner 50% votes, a run-off election between him and Inglis was conducted where he earned 70% of the votes. He then went on to defeat Democrat nominee Paul Corden among others to win the South Carolina's 4th congressional district election, 2010.
On January 3, 2011, he assumed office as a Member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina's 4th district. He succeeded in retaining his seat during the 2012, 2014 and 2016 elections thus winning four times in a row.
As Representative he serves Committee on the Judiciary including its Subcommittee on Constitution and Civil Justice and Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations where he is presently the Chairman.
He also serves the Committee on Ethics; Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; and Committee on Oversight and Government Reform including its Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits and Administrative Rules and Subcommittee on Intergovernmental Affairs.
He was against the 2011 defense authorisation bill. He was also not in favour of the Speaker John Boehner’s debt limit bill and opposed it in the midst of the 2011 United States debt ceiling crisis in August that year.
A frequent speaker on the House floor, Gowdy takes up matters starting from backing reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act and Operation Fast and Furious.
‘Club for Growth’, a 501(c)(4) fiscally conservative organization, bestowed upon him the ‘Defender of Economic Freedom’ award in 2012. He was one of the 34 congressmen who achieved highest ranking in the organisation’s metrics to receive the award that year with his score being 97 out of 100.
He went on to sign the ‘Contract from America’ that inspires congressional candidates to follow ten agenda items including simplifying the tax system, demanding a balanced federal budget, reduction of taxes, limiting annual growth in federal spending and restricting earmarks among others.
Over the years, he has sponsored eleven bills that include the H.R. 6620 bill and the H.R. 2076 bill, both of which were introduced during the 112th Congress and were signed into law in 2013 on January 10 and January 14 respectively.
He presented the ENFORCE the Law Act of 2014 (H.R. 4138) in the House on March 4, 2014 during 113th Congress. The bill though passed in the House is not yet signed into law.
H.R. 4138 would enable the US Senate and the US House of Representatives to sue the US President to make clear a federal law in a federal court, that is look for a declaratory judgement, in case of non-enforcement of the law by the executive branch.
He was named as a probable nominee for Attorney General in the Donald Trump cabinet by the latter, a Republican nominee, in July 2015. However, his support for Senator Marco Rubio for President made his equation with Trump campaign stressed.
When Rubio lost Republican primary to Trump in his home state Florida, and pulled out from Presidential race on March 15, 2016, Gowdy lend his support for Trump on May 20, citing that although he was a “Rubio guy”, Trump would get his support for President as a presumptive Republican nominee.