By Paul Gable
Seventh Congressional District Democratic candidate Preston Brittain gained five major endorsements yesterday, pushing him to the front of the field of four contesting the upcoming June 12th primary for the new U.S. House seat.
Congressman Jim Clyburn, former Congressman John Spratt, former Governor Jim Hodges, and state Senators John Land and Vincent Sheheen announced their support for Brittain’s candidacy through a conference call Tuesday.
Each candidate praised Brittain’s understanding of the needs of the entire district as well as his desire to bring the Interstate 73 project to fruition.
The endorsements by five of the most important and recognizable Democrats in the state appear to make Brittain the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination.
The 7th District Democratic field underwent a major change last week when then-frontrunner Ted Vick dropped out of the race after he was arrested in Columbia on DUI and gun possession charges.
Vick had been registering number one in recent polls for the primary with Brittain and Gloria Bromell Tinubu running neck and neck for second place. However, as much as 70 percent of the Democrats polled have declared they are still undecided about who to vote for.
The high profile endorsements could prove to be a boon for Brittain’s candidacy or they could be a double edge sword. If the endorsements bring votes with them, Brittain has the possibility of clinching the nomination on the first ballot.
However, should Tinubu edge out Brittain for first place in the June 12th primary and the two end up in a runoff, not an impossible scenario to contemplate, he could be seen as not living up to expectations.
What will happen to Vick’s vote? Will his supporters choose among the other candidates or simply not vote? Who will gain the majority of the undecided? The answers to those questions are still considerably up in the air at this juncture two weeks before the voting.
In the Republican field, former Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer continues to lead the polling of the field of nine, garnering 25 – 30 percent of those polled. Second place appears to be between former Horry County Council chair Chad Prosser and current county chair Tom Rice.
However, depending on the polling results you see, Myrtle Beach city councilman Randal Wallace, former Congressional aide and military combat veteran Katherine Jenerette and Florence attorney Jay Jordan all show signs of being able to finish second in the primary.
That there will be a runoff in the Republican primary with Bauer as one of the candidates is a guarantee. Who will be the other candidate to make the runoff is the interesting question that will be answered over the next two weeks. There are no favorites for that position at this time and approximately 30 percent of Republicans polled remain undecided.
The one definitive characteristic of the 7th primary race on both sides to this point is the absolute lack of real buzz about any of the candidates. None of them, on either side, has yet to really excite a mass of supporters. You travel around this district and there is no real excitement about the race.
Two weeks out and it appears turnout will be low. The Congressional race is not generating much excitement and the candidate filing mess has considerably reduced the down ticket state and local races.
Party loyalists will show up at the polls, but how many others will bother to vote? Maybe that’s why yesterday’s endorsements for Brittain are so important. The party’s highest profiles in the state have gathered around him. That may be enough.