Could South Carolina see one of the South’s more competitive races in 2018?
In a region that votes heavily Republican, Roll Call highlights the 5th District race for Congress as a potential pick up for Democrats and two-time candidate Archie Parnell.
The site went looking for races in the Deep South similar to Democratic senator-elect Doug Jones’ upset win in Alabama, and focused on Parnell’s competitiveness in the district centered on Rock Hill.
“Even if you don’t remember his name, you probably remember Archie Parnell’s announcement video for the South Carolina special election,” Roll Call’s Patricia Murphy wrote, noting a Parnell ad that spoofed “House of Cards.”
“The video... helped Parnell break through the Jon Ossoff media mania next door in Georgia, where the race to replace Rep. Tom Price sucked up most of the national attention and Democratic money going into Election Day.”
Parnell, a Sumter tax attorney, ran a close special election against GOP Rep. Ralph Norman in June, losing by 3 percentage points. The race was close enough that Parnell decided he would run against Norman a second time next November.
However, a Norman political adviser isn’t buying Roll Call’s prediction that the 5th District race will be competitive.
For starters, turnout in November’s general election will not compare to the special election that resulted in a narrow win for Norman, said Walter Whetsell, Norman’s political consultant during the campaign, now his chief of staff.
As many Republicans have noted, Jones’ win stemmed in part from a flawed GOP candidate in Roy Moore, whose campaign was dogged by accusations from women who said Moore pursued them when they were teenagers.
S.C. Democrats are hanging onto hope that the 5th District could go blue again, after U.S. Rep. John Spratt, a York Democrat, represented the district for nearly 30 years. Spratt won his last term in 2008 and went on to lose the seat in 2010 to Mick Mulvaney, the first Republican to win the 5th District in more than a hundred years.
Parnell’s narrow loss was so promising in the eyes of Democrats that Jones’ Alabama campaign copied his hyper-local, grassroots approach.
Mulvaney resigned the seat earlier this year when President Donald Trump named him to be the administration’s budget director, setting up the special election.
Parnell campaign spokesman Zach Marcus said Parnell will continue to focus on connecting with voters across the 5th District.
“(W)hile we’re flattered that folks nationally are taking notice that Archie has a real shot at winning, our campaign is continuing to focus on local issues that have a real impact on people’s lives."
Reporter Jamie Self contributed.