By Paul Gable
Republican candidates for the new S.C. 7th
Congressional District will have an early chance to attract voters when the
SCGOP presents a candidates debate Sunday January 15, 2012 at 7 p.m. The
location of the debate is still to be decided.
The 7th District debate will be part of the SCGOP
Experience Weekend & Presidential Debate January 14-16, 2012 in Myrtle
Beach. The First in the South Presidential Debate will be held at the Myrtle
Beach Convention Center on Monday January 16, 2012 at 8 p.m.
At this time, nine Republican candidates have announced they
are running for the 7th District seat. They are former Lt. Gov.
Andre Bauer, S.C. Rep Thad Viers, Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice,
Myrtle Beach City Councilman Randall Wallace, Myrtle Beach businesswoman Debbie Harwell, Myrtle Beach businessman Dick Withington, Myrtle Beach TV host Mande Wilkes, Murrells Inlet realtor Renee Culler and Florence attorney Jay Jordan.
This early opportunity for a candidate to set themself apart
from the crowded field is important because of the makeup of the new district, which very closely resembles the old 6th Congressional District that was
broken up in 1992.
Seven counties in the new district, Horry, Georgetown, most
of Florence, Marion, Marlboro, Dillon and Darlington were part of the former 6th District until 1992. Chesterfield is the final county in the new 7th
District. Williamsburg, Clarendon and Lee Counties were also part of the old 6th District but are not in the new mix.
Only twice were Republican candidates elected in the old 6th
District, Ed Young in 1972 and John Napier in 1980. Neither was successful in
their bid for re-election. Democrat Robin Tallon served as the Representative
from the old 6th District for its final 10 years of existence.
The only Horry County resident in history to be elected to the
U.S. House of Representatives, John Jenrette, served as a Democrat from 1974-1980 representing the old 6th District. It could be argued that Jenrette
was also partly responsible for the Republican victories in 1972 and 1980.
Jenrette defeated 10 term incumbent Congressman John
McMillan in the Democratic primary in 1972, splitting party loyalty among the
old guard in the process. He was narrowly defeated in the 1972 general election by Young but came back for victories in ’74, ’76 and ’78. In 1980, Jenrette was under indictment for his part in the Capitol Hill Abscam scandal when henarrowly lost to Napier in the 1980 general election.
But, the reader may say, this is a different era and the
Republican Party is much stronger throughout the state than when the old 6th
District was around. This is true statewide, but not necessarily in the new 7th
Horry County expects to be the big player in the new district
but this may not be so. Seven of the nine announced Republican candidates come from Horry County with one from northern Georgetown County and one from Florence County.
Try these facts. There are presently approximately 392,000
registered voters in the new district. Nearly 50 percent of those residing in
Horry and Georgetown counties.
However, in the 2010 election cycle, an excellent year for
Republicans both statewide and nationally, Horry County was the only county in the new 7th where Republican voters turned out in greater numbers
than the Democrats for the primary election and then by 50.8 percent to 49.2
percent. In the remaining seven counties, Democrats outnumbered Republican voters in the primaries by very wide margins.
The general election year of 2012 will also be a
presidential election year, which has a tendency to improve voter turnout.
However, past turnout history in the new 7th shows the two parties
to run virtually even with, possibly, a very slight edge to the Democratic
How will the candidates split the Horry County Republican
vote in the primary? Can any of them stand out enough to draw Democrats to the Republican primary, especially in Horry County? Can the primary winner attract Democratic votes throughout the district in the general election?
It’s going to come down to which candidate can capture
voters early and build on that support during the primary season and which
party can do a better job of turning out their base in the general election.
A good debate showing by a Republican candidate in the
January 15th Congressional debate could provide a significant bump
toward victory in the primary and election in November.