Politics & Government

Former prosecutor, SC GOP legislator to run for Congress

Corresponding with murderer Susan Smith

Susan Smith writes back to The State newspaper's Harrison Cahill. Cahill tells readers how he came to correspond with one of South Carolina's most notorious murderers.
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Susan Smith writes back to The State newspaper's Harrison Cahill. Cahill tells readers how he came to correspond with one of South Carolina's most notorious murderers.

A Republican leader in the S.C. House – best known for prosecuting child-killer Susan Smith – will run for Congress.

State Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, said Monday he will seek the 5th District seat, if U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-Indian Land, is confirmed as President Donald Trump’s budget director, setting off a special election.

“I always believed that here in South Carolina was where I could best serve the people, but when God closes one door, he often opens another,” Pope said Monday.

The former prosecutor, who is S.C. House speaker pro tempore, had planned to run for governor in 2018.

However, Gov. Nikki Haley, who could not run again in 2018 due to S.C.’s two-term limit for governors, resigned to become Trump’s U.N. ambassador. That move elevated Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster to governor, allowing the Richland Republican to run effectively as an incumbent in 2018.

Pope said he will set aside his plan to run for governor if he is elected to Congress.

Pope joins four other Republicans hoping to fill the 5th District’s pending vacancy.

Republican state Rep. Ralph Norman of York, anti-Common Core activist Sheri Few of Kershaw County, S.C. State Guard commander Tom Mullikin of Camden, and Indian Land attorney Kris Wampler have said they are running.

Pope could have the advantage, however.

A recent poll showed Pope is leading the race for the GOP nomination in the Republican district, which Mulvaney won by 20 points last November. The Kansas City (Mo.)-based Remington Research Group found Pope had the support of 25 percent of likely Republican primary voters, 16 points ahead of the next likely GOP candidate.

“In a special election like this – a short window, not a lot of time to make yourself known if you’re not know – name ID recognition goes a long, long way,” said Greenville GOP consultant Chip Felkel, adding Pope “certainly would have an advantage there.”

No Democrats have announced plans to run for the seat, represented by Democratic U.S. Rep. John Spratt for nearly 30 years before Mulvaney beat Spratt in 2010.

Pope, the former 16th Circuit solicitor, is best known for prosecuting the infamous Susan Smith child murder case in 1995. He won a conviction but failed to convince a jury that Smith should receive the death penalty. Smith is serving a life sentence.

Pope now practices law privately with the Elrod Pope Law Firm in Rock Hill. Pope has represented western York County in the S.C. House since 2010. He has been House’s speaker pro tempore since 2014.

Pope said he is running “because there has never been a greater opportunity for real conservative change in Washington, and I want to help lead it.”

“As the president (Trump) said yesterday before the Super Bowl, ‘There is a lot of work to do!’ ” Pope said, adding he would “fight to cut our bloated government, protect the unborn and restore our God-given rights to the states.”

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 resigns this week, the earliest that candidates could file to run for the seat would be Feb. 24. The primary would be on April 25, the runoff on May 9 and the general election on June 13.

SOURCE: S.C. State Election Commission