Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Posts Tagged ‘Joe Wilson’

DeMint Moves to Heritage; Who’s Next?

In Senate on December 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm
Sen. Jim DeMint

Sen. Jim DeMint

The unexpected announcement that Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) will resign his seat in January to become president of the Heritage Foundation yields two major surprises. First, is the timing of his departure. Though Mr. DeMint had pledged to only serve two senatorial terms upon his original election, he still has four years remaining in his allotted tenure. Second, the big winner lurking behind the scenes in this unfolding scenario could be South Carolina’s senior senator, Lindsey Graham.

DeMint has been a key conservative leader since his original election to the state’s 4th Congressional District in 1998. That year he pledged to serve only three terms in Washington. During DeMint’s final year in the House, Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings announced that he would not seek re-election, thus providing the outgoing congressman an opportunity to seek an open Senate seat in 2004.

With the Senate moving further left after the 2012 election results, the opportunity of helping to craft and rebuild the conservative movement outside Congress by running one of the premier right-of-center think tanks proved more alluring to DeMint that toiling in an even smaller minority.

Sen. Graham factors into this scenario differently. Facing the voters in 2014, speculation has been prevalent that he would soon receive a primary challenge from the right, one that could be serious since the senator has strayed much further to the middle of the ideological spectrum than the average South Carolina Republican primary voter. Now that the DeMint seat will also be up for election in 2014, much of the attention will be drawn away from Graham and onto who will become DeMint’s replacement. Many of Graham’s potential challengers will likely find an open seat or running against an appointed incumbent to be a more appealing option.

The Replacement Scenarios

Under South Carolina election law, Gov. Nikki Haley (R) will appoint an interim senator until the next regular general election in 2014. The winner of that election serves the remainder of DeMint’s term, meaning said individual will stand for a full six-year term in 2016. Haley could appoint someone who will run for the long term or choose to select a caretaker – an individual agreeing only to serve for the 113th Congress and not be an election candidate in 2014.

In either event, Haley has many people from which to choose. Republicans control all eight constitutional offices in addition to the governor’s post, along with having six members of the US House of Representatives. Still others, such as former attorney general and state Republican Party chairman Henry McMaster, are ex-statewide officials. Reportedly, McMaster would not be interested in a caretaker appointment. Former South Carolina Republican Party chairman Katon Dawson is reportedly interested in being considered. Former US Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins is also being mentioned as a potential appointment candidate.

Who eventually becomes the interim senator may depend on what Haley sees as her own future. The option of resigning as governor and having Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell (R), after he ascends into the governor’s office, appoint her to the Senate is a non-starter. Governors who have tried such schemes have always been pummeled at the polls in the next election. If she has interest in the seat herself, she could appoint a person who will not seek election in 2014, and then she could run in the open seat. Haley’s own position will be coming up for election also in that year, so the governor would have to choose between the two offices.

The senior Republican in the congressional delegation is Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC-2), and his son, Alan, is the state’s attorney general. Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1), believed to be Sen. DeMint’s favored choice to succeed him, would become the state’s first African-American senator since Reconstruction. Should the governor choose a member of the congressional delegation, a succeeding special election would then be held to replace the newly appointed senator.

Since the DeMint announcement caught the political community by surprise, it will take several days to sort out. The jockeying for the Senate appointment will soon begin, however, and Gov. Haley will be forced to act quickly since DeMint will be leaving office in early January.

The announcement also means that 34 Senate elections will be contested in 2014 instead of 33.

The Dispute Continues in SC-7

In Election Analysis, House on June 18, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Reapportionment awarded South Carolina a new 7th District for the ensuing decade, and the seat’s first election is already featuring some unusual occurrences to say the least.

The new 7th CD was placed in the northeast corner of the state anchored by the city of Myrtle Beach within fast-growing Horry County. Freshmen Reps. Tim Scott (R-SC-1), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC-5), and Assistant Minority Leader Jim Clyburn (D-SC-6) currently represent the region. The GOP nominee should have the inside track to winning the general election.

The candidates appear headed to a June 26 run-off election – or are they? It’s clear on the Republican side that former lieutenant governor Andre Bauer (32 percent in the June 12th primary election) and Horry County Council chairman Tom Rice (closely trailing Bauer with 27 percent) will square off a week from tomorrow, but it is the Democratic result that remains unclear. The fact that South Carolina has the tightest run-off schedule in the nation, just two weeks between the primary and secondary vote, makes post-election problem solving all the more difficult.

The Democratic Party troubles began when their establishment-backed candidate, state Rep. Ted Vick, ended up in jail less than a month before the primary election on DUI and gun charges. He immediately dropped out of the congressional race, but not in time for election authorities to remove his name from the ballot. The party establishment then transferred their support to young attorney Preston Brittain.

The development made another individual with an unusual history the party’s leading candidate. Up until the new district lines were finalized earlier this year, Gloria Tinubu was a state representative … in Georgia. Upon seeing the South Carolina map, Tinubu resigned her seat in the Peach State and moved to Myrtle Beach, declaring her congressional candidacy along the way. Obviously, being from another state is a major negative in trying to win an election before a brand new constituency; however, in a rapidly growing area with an influx of new residents, deep community roots sometimes don’t matter.

The dispute centers around the South Carolina Election Board’s decision not to count ballots cast for Vick, which totaled 8 percent of the total Democratic congressional vote. The ruling changes the end result. Without Vick recording any votes, Tinubu exceeds 50 percent and wins the nomination. If Vick’s votes are counted, the total vote cast figure is large enough to deny Tinubu the majority, thus forcing a run-off election.

Understanding that featuring a Democratic nominee who is really from another state is not the strongest of positions from which to launch a competitive general election campaign in a largely Republican district, the second-place candidate, Brittain, and SC Democratic Party chairman Dick Harpootlian challenged the Election Board’s decision not to count Vick’s votes. The Board membership sought legal advice from Attorney General Alan Wilson, son of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC-2), in order to make their final ruling, which they did on Friday. Wilson backed the members’ original judgment to not count Vick’s votes, and thus the 7th District Democratic nomination was officially awarded to the former Georgia state representative.

In response, Brittain and Harpootlian filed a legal challenge, and the local Horry County judge will hear the case and make a ruling on Thursday. Even if he overturns Wilson and the Election Board, the ensuing run-off campaign time will last only five days, since the run-off election date will still remain June 26.

Regardless of the how the dispute finally unfolds later in the week, the big winner is the eventual Republican nominee. Whether Bauer or Rice wins the run-off, next Tuesday’s GOP result will likely choose the first congressman from this new 7th District.