Politics & Government

CNN analyst, former state rep eyes SC Democrats’ sole seat in Congress

Former state Rep. Bakari Sellers says he will be ready to run for the state’s sole Democratic congressional seat whenever it opens up.

“When that opportunity presents itself, when it arises, it’s fair to say I will be raring and ready to go to get the voters of the 6th District to send me to Congress,” Sellers, a Democrat from Bamberg, said Monday, referring to the seat held by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn for a quarter century.

Sellers, 33, said he is not thinking about running against the 77-year-old Clyburn, who said Monday he will seek re-election.

“It’s been a dream of mine for a very long time,” Sellers said of the congressional seat. “But, more than that, the country is thirsting for change, and it’s hard because you have to be patient.”

Sellers and about a half-dozen other prominent S.C. politicos see themselves as political heirs to the congressional seat, if and when Clyburn retires.

First elected to Congress in 1992, Clyburn said Monday that he has more work to do in Congress. Clyburn said his advocacy for federal resources for rural communities is paying off. His poverty proposals were included in the Obama-era economic stimulus, and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan included some in the federal budget, too.

Clyburn acknowledged there is a lot of interest in his seat. “A younger person will be in my seat one day. It's yet to be determined who that young person is,” he said.

Sellers raised questions about his own plans by tweeting Sunday that he “is running soon.” The tweet was a response to a tweet by someone else arguing the aging Democratic leadership in the U.S. House “needs to be replaced.”

“All of our leaders, de facto leaders, are older, and when you look at the bench for the Republican Party, when you see the Paul Ryans and the Nikki Haleys ... there’s a lot of talent and they’re giving their young leaders a chance to grow,” Sellers said Monday, adding the Democratic Party “stifles” its younger talent.

Along with a host of state and local Democratic officials, former S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison, who worked for Clyburn in Congress, would be a likely contender for the 6th District seat. Clyburn has said Harrison would make a good congressman.

Sellers said he is not worried about others who might seek the congressional seat. “You still have to win a race.”

A former Clyburn intern, Sellers has been considered a rising star in the Democratic Party since being elected to the S.C. House at the age of 22. In 2014, he ran for lieutenant governor and lost to Henry McMaster, now the state’s Republican governor.

Now an attorney at the Strom Law Firm in Columbia, Sellers also is a CNN commentator. While working in the private sector, Sellers says he’s staying active in the community — for example, buying Charlotte Hornets tickets for a group of North Charleston high-school students.