Just months after a rocky 2016 campaign season came to an end, voters in South Carolina’s 5th District could be heading back to the polls.
Four Republican candidates already have announced plans to run for U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s seat once the Indian Land Republican steps down to become President Donald Trump’s budget director. However, more candidates still could jump into the race, including at least two GOP heavyweights.
Meanwhile, no Democratic candidate has yet declared for the congressional seat, leaving the possibility that Democrats could be without a candidate in a district they held until 2010.
Two U.S. Senate committees approved the nomination of Mulvaney on Thursday. The nomination now goes to the full Senate. However, the earliest a vote is expected is next week.
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Of the announced candidates, only state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-York, currently holds a political office.
Other Republicans in the race include Sheri Few, an education activist who previously ran unsuccessfully for S.C. superintendent of education in 2014; Tom Mullikin, a Camden attorney and commander of the S.C. State Guard; and Kris Wampler, an Indian Land attorney who practices law in North Carolina.
Two GOP heavyweights are waiting in the wings.
Former prosecutor Tommy Pope, the York Republican who is speaker pro tempore of the S.C. House, has said he is considering running for the seat. A poll conducted last month found Pope, who rose to national attention when he prosecuted child-killer Susan Smith, is well known in the district and could be a formidable candidate.
Another candidate considering the plunge is Chad Connelly, a Newberry resident who was chairman of the S.C. Republican Party from 2011 to 2013. Connelly now is national director of faith engagement for the GOP.
So far, Democrats do not have a candidate for the seat, which was held for 28 years by John Spratt before he lost a bid for a 15th term to Mulvaney in 2010.
Fran Person, a former Gamecock football player and aide to Vice President Joe Biden, ran for the seat last November but lost to Mulvaney by 20 points.
Person hasn’t committed to running again.
Two other prominent Democrats in the district – state Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden and state Rep. Mandy Powers Norrell of Lancaster – have ruled out seeking the seat.
State Rep. John King, D-York, says he is considering a run but wants to coordinate with party leaders and members of the Legislative Black Caucus, which he currently chairs.
Also not running? State Rep. Gary Simrill, R-York, who was recently named the majority leader in the S.C. House.
Filling a 5th District vacancy
The 5th District covers all of Cherokee, Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Union and York counties, as well as portions of Newberry, Spartanburg and Sumter counties.
When would a special election be held? South Carolina lays out an election schedule that begins on the day that U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney resigns, which likely won’t happen until after he is confirmed to join the Trump Administration.
If Mulvaney were to resign Friday, the earliest that candidates could file to run for the seat would be Feb. 24. The primary would be on April 18, the runoff on May 2 and the general election on June 6.
Each date would move back a week if Mulvaney doesn’t resign until Tuesday.
Fun fact: While voters have to live in the district to cast a ballot, candidates do not. The U.S. Constitution requires only that a candidate be 25 years old, a citizen for at least seven years and live in the state.
SOURCE: S.C. State Election Commission