Politics & Government

Former DOJ attorney launches bid for Congress against Joe Wilson

A former attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice is launching a bid to unseat a near-20-year incumbent S.C. congressman.

Democrat Adair Ford Boroughs of Forest Acres announced on Wednesday she is running against U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson of Springdale, the Republican congressman who has represented South Carolina’s 2nd District since 2001.

“My whole life has been about beating the odds, and helping others do the same, and that’s what I want to do in Congress,” Boroughs said.

Boroughs launched her campaign with a video that highlights Wilson yelling “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during a joint address to Congress and the congressman’s endorsement of a satirical program to arm pre-school students.

“What I hear from people in the district is that if they need a ribbon cut or a photo-op, he’s there,” Boroughs said of Wilson. “But if they need substantive help with something, where is he?”

Efforts to reach Wilson’s campaign for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

Boroughs faces long odds. Wilson has soundly defeated Democratic challengers in the past.

Most recently, in 2018, he beat Democrat Sean Carrigan by 13.8 points — even amidst a blue mid-term surge that saw Democrats reclaim control of the U.S. House.

Until Tuesday, Boroughs served as the executive director of Charleston Legal Access, a non-profit that assists people who don’t otherwise qualify for free legal aid. She will stay on part time while running for Congress, she said.

“Because of Adair, we’ve been able to help a heck of a lot of people,” Patrick Wooten, an attorney and board member at Charleston Legal Access, said in a press release from the Boroughs’ campaign.

From 2007 to 2013, the Williston native was an attorney with the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., where she prosecuted large-scale tax fraud.

“I was morally indignant about it,” Boroughs told The State. “My daddy worked his butt off and paid his taxes, and then these companies and the uber-wealthy were building tax shelters when my daddy paid his taxes.”

Boroughs later went on to clerk in the office of federal court Judge Richard Gergel, where she worked on the death penalty trial of 2015 Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof.

“That had a big impact with me on issues of race. It gave me a perspective I did not have before,” Boroughs said. “I remember asking a friend who’s African American, ‘How are you not angry all the time?’ It’s a lot to have someone hate you for the color of your skin that much.

She says she grew up “in a double-wide trailer” in Williston, the daughter of a cabinet maker and a public school teacher. After graduating from Williston-Elko High School, Boroughs went to Furman University and taught high school math in Greenville County before she attended Stanford University for law school.

Follow more of our reporting on First in the South

See all 10 stories
Related stories from The State in Columbia SC

Bristow Marchant is currently split between covering Richland County and the 2020 presidential race. He has more than 10 years’ experience covering South Carolina. He won the S.C. Press Association’s 2015 award for Best Series on a toxic Chester County landfill fire, and was part of The State’s award-winning 2016 election coverage.