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GOP keeps South Carolina U.S. House seat with vastly decreased margin

Republican Ralph Norman defeats Democrat Archie Parnell by just 3 points

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Republican Ralph Norman has won the special election for South Carolina’s 5th District U.S. House seat, but Democrat Archie Parnell managed to trim more than 17 points from the GOP’s 2016 margin despite getting little support from Democrats nationally.

U.S. Rep.-Elect Ralph Norman, R-South Carolina

With all of the precincts reporting in the June 20 vote, Norman, a former state representative, won 51.1 percent to 47.9 percent for Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs executive making his first run for political office.

That 3.2-point margin showed a marked deterioration in Republican support since the November election. President Trump won the district by 19 points in 2016, while Mick Mulvaney, who gave up the seat to become director of the Office of Management and Budget, won by nearly 21 points.

The 5th District takes in the north central part of the state, stretching along the I-77 corridor from the suburbs of Charlotte down to near Columbia.

Norman, 63, is a real estate developer from Rock Hill who served two stints in the state House, first from 2005 to 2007 and then from 2009 until he resigned to run for Mulvaney’s seat. He was favored to win after dispatching State Rep. Tommy Pope in May’s Republican primary runoff.

Archie Parnell, D-Congressional candidate

Parnell, 66, from Sumter, is a South Carolina native who is currently a senior adviser to Goldman Sachs after working there as a managing director for 20 years. He is also a former tax attorney for ExxonMobil and worked in Washington as senior counsel for a House committee from 1976 to 1980.

While Parnell’s long-shot campaign won enthusiasm from South Carolina Democrats, the national party and Democratic leaning outside groups largely avoided the 5th District race, concentrating their firepower instead on a House runoff in Georgia, held the same day, that was considered more winnable.

Parnell also had the endorsement of John Spratt, the Democrat who held the seat for 28 years before being ousted by Mulvaney in the Republican wave of 2010.

Norman’s win, along with a win by Republican Karen Handel in the Georgia 6th District runoff, means Republicans have successfully defended all four of the House seats that became vacant when their occupants were appointed to positions in the Trump administration. The other elections were in Kansas and Montana.

South Carolina U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy picked to head powerful oversight panel

Gowdy will head House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, who gained national prominence for his dogged investigation of the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, has been selected to be the new chair of the House committee charged with investigating the executive branch.

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-South Carolina

Gowdy was selected June 8 by the Republican Steering Committee to chair the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, replacing U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who is resigning from Congress.

“Oversight is constitutionally authorized and important to ensure branch integrity and equilibrium,” Gowdy said in a statement after his selection. “I look forward to working alongside the other committee members, as well as any member of Congress, as we discharge the jurisdiction assigned to us.”

Gowdy, 52, a former federal and state prosecutor in South Carolina, is in his fourth term representing the state’s 4th District, which includes the Greenville-Spartanburg metro area.

After four Americans died in a terrorist attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi in 2012, Gowdy was appointed by House GOP leaders to head a special committee to investigate the attack.

The primary target of that probe was Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack. Gowdy’s investigation eventually led to the disclosure that Clinton had used a private email server, which prompted an FBI investigation and dogged her throughout the 2016 presidential campaign.

After Donald Trump defeated Clinton, House Republicans shut down the Benghazi committee.

GOP primary in South Carolina U.S. House special election heads to a runoff

Winner of Republican contest will face Democrat Archie Parnell in June 20 election for Mick Mulvaney’s former House seat

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

YORK, South Carolina (CFP) — State legislators Tommy Pope and Ralph Norman survived a crowded Republican field in the battle for South Carolina’s vacant 5th District U.S. House seat and will now face off in a May 16 runoff, with the winner facing Democrat Archie Parnell on June 20.

Pope

Norman

Pope narrowly edged out Norman in the first round of voting on May 2, with each taking about 30 percent of the vote against five other competitors. Parnell took 71 percent of the vote against two competitors in the Democratic primary, avoiding a runoff.

Given the district’s strong Republican lean, the winner of the GOP runoff will be considered a heavy favorite to capture the seat, which Mick Mulvaney gave up to become director of the Office of Management and Budget in the Trump administration.

Parnell

However, Parnell, who spend 20 years as a managing director at investment giant Goldman Sachs, brings a personal fortune to the race. He also has the endorsement of John Spratt, the Democrat who held this seat for 28 years before being ousted by Mulvaney in the Republican wave of 2010.

The 5th District takes in the north central part of the state, stretching along the I-77 corridor from the suburbs of Charlotte down to near Columbia.

Pope, 54, from York, is best known as the prosecutor in the trial of Susan Smith, who was convicted in 1995 of drowning her two young sons after first claiming they had been carjacked by a black man. He has served in the state House since 2010, rising to the position of speaker pro tempore in 2014.

Norman, 63, is a real estate developer from Rock Hill who served two stints in the state House, first from 2005 to 2007 and then from 2009 until he resigned to run for Mulvaney’s seat. He was the unsuccessful Republican nominee against Spratt in 2006.

Parnell, 66, from Sumter, is a South Carolina native who is currently a senior adviser to Goldman Sachs after working there as a managing director for 20 years. He is also a former tax attorney for ExxonMobil and worked in Washington as senior counsel for a House committee from 1976 to 1980.

Analysis: Results in Confederate namesake counties show role of race in Democratic decline

Trump accelerates Republican shift in counties named for Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern states sm(CFP) — Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee loom large as icons of the Southern Confederacy, so much so that 11 Southern counties and one Louisiana parish bear their names. But if these lions of the South are aware of what is happening in their namesake counties today, they may be rotating in their graves.

Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Confederate President Jefferson Davis

Changes in presidential voting in these counties over the past 40 years illustrate just how far the Black Republicans against which Lee and Davis fought are now transcendent—and the alarming (for Democrats) degree to which white Southerners have forsaken their traditional political roots.

Of course, the South’s march toward the GOP is not news. Today, the term “Solid South” has an entirely different connotation than it did during the days of FDR or Lyndon Johnson. However, these namesake counties do provide a window into how these shifts in party preference have occurred over time and the role that race played in them.

Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Confederate General Robert E. Lee

The 2016 presidential results also show that the Republicanization of the South is accelerating in these counties that bear the mark of Southern heritage, which bodes ill for future Democratic prospects.

In 1976, when Democrat Jimmy Carter became the first Southerner to win the White House since Zachary Taylor in 1848, he carried nine of the 12 Davis and Lee counties. By 1992, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush were splitting them six-to-six.

By 2000, Republican George W. Bush had flipped nine of the 12 namesake counties his way; his average share of the total votes cast for the two major party candidates in those counties that year was an impressive 64 percent. But in 2016, Trump trumped the younger Bush, carrying those same nine counties with an average of 70 percent of the two-party vote.

In 1976, Republican President Gerald Ford’s share of the two-party vote topped 50 percent in just three namesake counties (in Florida, Alabama, and Kentucky). But by 2016, Trump’s share of the two-party vote was more than 50 percent in nine counties and parishes; above 60 percent in eight; above 70 percent in four; and above a whopping 80 percent in two (Georgia and Kentucky).

The most dramatic changes were in Jeff Davis County, Georgia, where native Georgian Carter carried 79 percent of the vote in 1976 and Trump won 81 percent in 2016, and Jefferson Davis Parish, Louisiana, where Carter won 62 percent and Trump 75 percent. However, even in majority black Lee County, Arkansas, Trump’s 16-point loss in 2016 was less than half of Ford’s 38-point defeat.

In addition to Lee County, Arkansas, the only namesake counties Trump lost in 2016 were Jefferson Davis County, Mississippi, and Lee County, South Carolina, which are also majority black. However, even in these three counties, Trump carried a larger share of the two-party vote in 2016 than Mitt Romney did in 2012.

In fact, Trump improved on Romney’s result in 11 of the 12 namesake counties, save only Jeff Davis County, Texas, where Trump had to settle for merely matching Romney’s total.

The results in these namesake counties over time also illustrate the role race has played in the political realignment of the South.

In all seven of the overwhelmingly white namesake counties, the Republican share of the two-party vote was higher in 2016 than in 1976, by an average of 29 percent. Trump did better than Romney by an average of 4 percent.

By contrast, in majority-black Lee counties in Mississippi and South Carolina, the Republican two-party share fell by an average 2.5 percent from 1976 to 2016, but Trump outperformed Romney by the same 2.5 percent. These results indicate that the white Southern shift to the Republicans appears stronger than the corresponding black shift to the Democrats.

This is borne out by the results in Lee County, Arkansas, which has the smallest African-American population of any of the majority-black namesake counties (55 percent). There, the Republican share of the two-party vote actually climbed 11 percent between 1976 and 2016, and Trump beat Romney’s total by 5 percent.

Two of the namesake counties—Lee County, Florida, and Jeff Davis County, Texas—are outliers in that they have significant Latino populations. The Republican share of the two-party vote in both of those counties was higher in 2016 than it was in 1976, but Trump’s results were down from the numbers put up in 2000 and 2004 by George W. Bush, who, for a Republican, ran strongly with Latino voters.

The results in the namesake counties also illustrate the mountain which Democrats need to climb if they are to reduce Republican hegemony in the South.

The Democratic base once included small towns and rural areas across the Southern landscape, as well as urban areas. In 2016, Democrats still held the cities (with newfound and welcome signs of life in suburban Atlanta and Houston) and the mostly small rural counties with majority black populations, such as the namesake counties in Arkansas, Mississippi and South Carolina. Democrats also do well in college towns such as Athens, Georgia, and Gainesville, Florida.

But Democrats’ failure to compete for the votes of small town and rural white voters is what is killing them electorally, as the results in the Davis and Lee namesake counties without black majorities vividly illustrates.

Only one of these namesake counties is urban—Lee County, Florida, which includes Fort Myers—and Lee County, Alabama, contains Auburn University. The rest of these counties and parishes are all rural, white areas where Messrs. Davis and Lee are no doubt remembered fondly and Jimmy Carter ran reasonably well—and where Hillary Clinton couldn’t get elected dog catcher if she handed out $20 bills at the polling booth.

As a barometer of the past, these namesake counties illustrate how far Democrats have fallen in their former strongholds. But if Trump’s improved results over Romney’s are a barometer of the future, the bottom may not yet have been reached.

Henry McMaster sworn in as new governor of South Carolina

McMaster succeeds Nikki Haley, who has been confirmed for U.N. ambassador post

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolics.com editor

south-carolina mugCOLUMBIA, South Carolina (CFP) — Republican Henry McMaster has taken the reins as the new governor of South Carolina, after outgoing Governor Nikki Haley’s confirmation to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster

Governor Henry McMaster

McMaster, who had served as lieutenant governor since 2011, was sworn in during a brief ceremony inside the South Carolina State House on January 24, shortly after the U.S. Senate voted 96 to 4 to confirm Haley and she resigned the post she had held for past six years.

“I am humbled, honored and deeply appreciative of being granted one of the rarest opportunities to serve the people of my state,” McMaster said. “We will do our best, and we will be our best.”

McMaster was introduced by Haley, who looked as her successor was installed.

“I will always have one eye on South Carolina, and I will always be a phone call away,” said Haley, who will now take up her ambassadorship in New York.

McMaster, 69, served as the U.S. attorney in South Carolina from 1981 to 1985 and as state attorney general from 2003 to 2011. After an unsuccessful run for governor against Haley in 2010, he returned to statewide office by being elected lieutenant governor in 2014.

McMaster was an early and enthusiastic supporter of President Donald Trump, delivering one of his nominating speeches at the Republican National Convention. After Trump won, he told the Associated Press that he had been contacted by Trump’s transition team as a possible pick for attorney general, a post which eventually went to U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

McMaster had been expected to run for governor in 2018 to succeed the term-limited Haley. His ascension to the governorship is likely to give him a significant advantage over any GOP rivals.

McMaster’s ascension also set off an odd scramble to fill the post of lieutenant governor, which ended up going to State Senator Kevin Bryant, R-Anderson.

Under South Carolina’s Constitution, a vacancy in the office of lieutenant governor would normally be filled by the state Senate’s president pro tempore, State Senator Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. However, Leatherman resigned his Senate leadership job to avoid taking the lieutenant governor’s post, which has limited power.

The Senate then voted to install Bryant as president pro tempore so he could become lieutenant governor. Leatherman is expected to try to reclaim his former post.

The same merry-go-round happened in 2014, when the lieutenant governorship became open after a resignation. At that time, Leatherman and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate refused to take the job, which eventually went to Democrat Yancy McGill.

McGill subsequently switched parties and has announced plans to run for governor in 2018 as a Republican.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley

Haley, 45, was the first women ever elected governor of the Palmetto State when she won in 2010. The daughter if Sikh immigrants from India, she was only the second Indian-American elected governor, after former Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

Haley is best known nationally for her handling of the aftermath of a shooting at an African-American church in Charleston in 2015 that left nine people dead. Amid national attention to racial tension in her state, Haley persuaded state legislators to remove the Confederate battle flag from the top of the State House in Columbia.

Haley’s decision to take a spot in the Trump administration marks a turn away from her previously frosty relationship with the new president, whom she once called “irresponsible” for suggesting that the election would be rigged.

Last January, as the presidential race was heating up, Haley delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and gave what was seen at the time as a thinly veiled shot at Trump: “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.”

Then, just before the South Carolina presidential primary in February, Haley endorsed one of Trump’s GOP rivals, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. When Rubio dropped out in March, she then endorsed U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Trump responded with a blast on Twitter in which he called her an embarrassment to the people of her state.

Haley never explicitly endorsed Trump during the campaign, although she did tell reporters at the Republican National Convention in July that she intended to vote for her party’s nominee.

South Carolina U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney named Trump’s budget chief

Mulvaney opposed Boehner, led the charge against 2013 bi-partisan budget deal

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

south-carolina mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, an ardent proponent of deep cuts in federal spending, is President-elect Donald Trump’s choice to lead the the Office of Management and Budget.

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-SC

U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-SC

Should Mulvaney be confirmed by the Senate, a special election will be triggered in the Palmetto State’s 5th District, which Mulvaney has represented since 2011. The district, which covers the north-central part of the state, is unlikely to change hands, as Mulvaney carried it by 20 points in the November election.

In a December 17 statement announcing his selection of Mulvaney, Trump called him “a very high-energy leader with deep convictions for how to responsibly manage our nation’s finances and save our country from drowning in red ink.”

“With Mick at the head of OMB, my administration is going to make smart choices about America’s budget, bring new accountability to our federal government, and renew the American taxpayer’s trust in how their money is spent,” Trump said.

In the same statement, Mulvaney said the new administration “will restore budgetary and fiscal sanity back in Washington after eight years of an out-of-control, tax-and-spend financial agenda.”

“Each day, families across our nation make disciplined choices about how to spend their hard earned money, and the federal government should exercise the same discretion that hardworking Americans do every day,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney, 49, from Lancaster, was elected to the House in the Tea Party wave of 2010, defeating former Democratic U.S. Rep. John Spratt, who had held the 5th District seat for 28 years.

Mulvaney is a member of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of conservative lawmakers who have often been at odds with their own GOP leadership. In 2013, he refused to support the re-election of John Boehner as House speaker, and later that year, he also opposed a bi-partisan budget deal hammered out by congressional leaders that was designed to prevent a government shutdown.

In 2015, Mulvaney endorsed one of Trump’s presidential rivals, U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. But after Paul dropped out of the race, he switched his support to Trump.

Mulvaney is the second South Carolinian named to a major post in the incoming Trump administration. Governor Nikki Haley has been nominated to be the ambassador to the United Nations.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley to be U.N. ambassador

Haley will be replaced in Columbia by Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster

♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor

south-carolina mugWASHINGTON (CFP) — South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley has been nominated by President-elect Donald Trump to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, despite her earlier criticism of him and endorsements of two of his Republican rivals.

If Haley is confirmed, Republican Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster will take over the Palmetto State’s governorship until a new governor is elected in 2018, keeping the seat in GOP hands.

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley

Although Haley has little foreign policy experience, Trump, in a statement announcing her nomination, said she “has a proven track record of bringing people together regardless of background or party affiliation to move critical policies forward for the betterment of her state and our country.”

“She is also a proven deal maker, and we look to be making plenty of deals,” Trump said.

Haley, 44, the daughter of Sikh immigrants from India, is in her second term, having been elected in 2010 and re-elected in 2014. She is the first woman ever elected as governor in South Carolina.

In a statement, she said the decision to leave the governorhsihp was “difficult” but that she accepted the U.N. ambassadorship out of “a sense of duty.”

“When the president believes you have a major contribution to make to the welfare of our nation, and to our nation’s standing in the world, that is a calling that is important to heed,” she said.

Haley is best known nationally for her handling of the aftermath of a shooting at an African-American church in Charleston in 2015 that left nine people dead. Amid national attention to racial tension in her state, Haley persuaded state legislators to remove the Confederate battle flag from the top of the State House in Columbia.

Haley’s decision to take a spot in the Trump administration marks a turn away from her previously frosty relationship with the incoming president; less than a month ago she called him “irresponsible” for suggesting that the election would be rigged.

Last January, as the presidential race was heating up, Haley delivered the Republican response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address and gave what was seen at the time as a thinly veiled shot at Trump: “During anxious times, it can be tempting to follow the siren call of the angriest voices. We must resist that temptation.”

Then, just before the South Carolina presidential primary in February, Haley endorsed one of Trump’s GOP rivals, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. When Rubio dropped out in March, she then endorsed U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas. Trump responded with a blast on Twitter in which he called her an embarrassment to the people of her state.

Haley never explicitly endorsed Trump during the campaign, although she did tell reporters at the Republican National Convention in July that she intended to vote for her party’s nominee.

Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster

Lieutenant Governor Henry McMaster

McMaster, 69, served as the U.S. attorney in South Carolina from 1981 to 1985 and as state attorney general from 2003 to 2011. After an unsuccessful run for governor against Haley in 2010, he returned to statewide office by being elected lieutenant governor in 2014.

Unlike Haley, McMaster was an early and enthusiastic supporter of Trump, delivering one of his nominating speeches at the convention. After Trump won, he told the Associated Press that he had been contacted by Trump’s transition team as a possible pick for attorney general, a post which eventually went to U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

McMaster had been expected to run for governor in 2018 to succeed the term-limited Haley. His ascension to the governorship is likely to give him a significant advantage over any GOP rivals.

Under South Carolina’s Constitution, McMaster’s post of lieutenant governor would normally be filled by the state Senate’s president pro tempore, Senator Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. However, when the lieutenant governorship became open after a resignation in 2014, Leatherman and the rest of the Republicans in the Senate refused to take the job, which has limited powers, and it eventually went to Democrat Yancy McGill.

McGill subsequently switched parties and has announced plans to run for governor in 2018 as a Republican.

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