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.