COLUMBIA, SC — After more than a year in the U.S. Senate, South Carolina Republican Tim Scott will soon be in his first statewide contest. And that, according to some of those vying to replace him, puts them on a level playing field with the incumbent.
The contest is only for the two years remaining in the term vacated last year when Jim DeMint resigned from the Senate to run the Heritage Foundation. Scott was a first-term congressman representing parts of South Carolina's coast when Gov. Nikki Haley picked him to replace DeMint. He previously served on Charleston's County Council and has worked as a financial adviser.
Scott gained instant attention in part because of his place in history: he's one of only two black U.S. senators and the only black Republican in that chamber. Eight months into his Senate tenure, he'd held official events in all of South Carolina's 46 counties, surprising some across the state who didn't know much about him when he was appointed.
“I don't represent Republican voters. I represent the state of South Carolina,” Scott said during an August stop in Abbeville. “I love Republicans who vote for Tim Scott, and I love people who don't.”
Three Democrats are vying for the chance to face Scott, although none have statewide name recognition. Sidney Moore, retired from the telecommunications industry, previously served on the York County Council and wants to focus on energy policy and education. On the Richland County Council since 2005, Joyce Dickerson has been active in Democratic politics since the 1980s and would focus on benefits for seniors and veterans.
“The current senator was selected by the governor, has not run a statewide race, and therefore I believe that this is an opportunity for if not me, somebody else, a Democrat, to actually run,” Dickerson said.
The third candidate, Myrtle Beach lawyer Harry Pavilack, ran for Congress in 2012. Only Dickerson has filed fundraising paperwork but had no cash on-hand in first-quarter filings.
With more than $3.7 million, Scott has solid fundraising and plans more campaigning. He told The Associated Press recently he wants to focus on tax reform and skills-based job training.
“It's a reality that so many of our employees around the country need to have training so that they can better meet the needs of the workforce,” Scott said.
Scott does have one opponent in the June 10 primary, although most of what is known about him comes from court records, not position papers. Reportedly a retired farmer and veteran, Randall Young listed only a P.O. Box as an address on campaign paperwork, and the cellphone number given no longer works.
Young previously sought the GOP nomination for a state House seat that came open last year, coming in last place – with 24 votes – in a five-way primary.
Last month, Young was charged with trespassing after refusing to leave a home from which he was being evicted. According to Greenville County sheriff's deputies, Young was arrested April 21 at the home he had shared with a woman for about five years but on which he had stopped paying rent.
When the money stopped coming, Hazel Moore called authorities, who moved to evict Young. Contacted at her home, Moore told an Associated Press reporter she didn't know where her former tenant was living.
“He didn't tell me where he was going,” Moore said.
Young didn't answer repeated phone calls at various numbers listed for him. On court records, Young listed as his address a plot of land he owns in Pickens County. No one was there when an AP reporter visited.
Scott said he didn't know much about Young's candidacy.
“We're spending our time focusing on what we're trying to get done and not on the competition,” Scott said. “I'm really trying to present a life that's full of potholes as well as success. I think that makes me accessible to what the average person goes through because I am the average person.”
Mitch Weiss in Travelers Rest contributed.