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Democrats again try to push back Republican gains in SC

November 3, 2018
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This Sept. 19, 2018 photo shows U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman (Rep), greeting Beth Abruzzino during an event in Sumter, SC. Norman is facing Democratic challenger Archie Parnell. Democrats will try to finally turn back decades of Republican gains in South Carolina as statewide offices _ all controlled by the GOP _ and U.S. House seats are all before voters in the general election. (Micah Green/The Sumpter Item via AP)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina Democrats are gearing up again to try to stop a relentless Republican wave that has shown no sign of retreating.

All seven statewide offices are before voters Tuesday, and a Democrat hasn’t won one since 2006. All seven U.S. House seats are up for grabs. The GOP controls six of them and the Democrats haven’t wrestled a seat back since 1986.

The Democrats are spending a lot of money on two key races. State Rep. James Smith has spent $1.4 million in his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, while Democrat Joe Cunningham has spent close to $2 million trying to defeat Republican state Rep. Katie Arrington for the 1st District U.S. House seat left open when Arrington knocked off incumbent Mark Sanford in the June primary.

But in other places on the ballot, Democrats hope to make gains against Republican incumbents who have had to fight off accusations of scandals or an unwillingness to work with lawmakers and others.

One thing is for certain: This election has energized voters. As of Friday, 230,000 people already cast ballots with two days of early voting to go. That’s a 46 percent increase from 2014 early voting numbers, which set a midterm record, according to the South Carolina Election Commission.

Here are races to watch:

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STATEWIDE OFFICES

Along with touting his accomplishments, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has spent campaign time this year explaining his role in an investigation into corruption at the Statehouse.

Less than a month before the election, a State Grand Jury report said Wilson impeded an investigation into corruption at the South Carolina Statehouse involving a political consultant he hired and was a friend whether he meant to or not.

Democrat Constance Anastopoulo has spent nearly $500,000 of her own money trying to knock off Wilson, much of it on TV ads. Some of them run in the same newscasts as commercials for her personal injury lawyer husband Akim Anastopoulo, well known for his “Don’t scream, call Akim” ads that run statewide.

Republican Secretary of State Mark Hammond is seeking a fifth term, trying to win a contested primary and general election after opponents emphasized that more than a hundred South Carolina laws passed for a decade did not have the state seal, which is one of the secretary of state’s duties.

His Democratic opponent is retired U.S. Army Maj. Melvin Whittenburg, who has emphasized he will make sure the job’s requirements are met and also add new initiatives like waiving the application fee for new businesses started by someone who graduated college in the past two years.

Republican state Treasurer Curtis Loftis is running for a third term. He has tangled with legislators over investments and how to handle the state retirement system. His opponent is Democrat Rosalyn Glenn, a consultant who helps business and other groups with their financial strategies.

South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers is seeking a fourth term against minor party candidates David Edmond of the Green Party and Chris Nelums of the United Citizens Party.

South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman is running unopposed for second term after Democratic challenger Israel Romero dropped out of the race in October because an undisclosed felony conviction a decade ago made him ineligible to serve.

Republican Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom is guaranteed a fifth term.

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CONGRESS

There is one rematch in the U.S. House races in South Carolina, as Democrat Archie Parnell takes on U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman in the 5th District.

Norman won the 2017 special election for the seat by just 3 percentage points. But the complexion of this year’s race changed in May when divorce records surfaced showing Parnell broke a glass door and beat his then-wife with his fists in 1973. The 5th District is in the northern part of the state and includes the Charlotte, North Carolina, suburbs.

South Carolina’s longest serving congressman is the delegation’s lone Democrat, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn. He is running for a 14th term against Republican Gerhard Gressmann in the 5th District, which connects parts of Columbia with parts of Charleston and was drawn to insure it had a majority of minority voters.

In the 2nd District, Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson is facing Democrat and Army veteran Sean Carrigan. Wilson hasn’t faced a close election since his district was redrawn in 2010. It includes Aiken, Barnwell and Lexington counties as well as parts of Orangeburg and Richland counties.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan is seeking a fifth term against Democrat Mary Geren in the 3rd District that covers 11 counties in northwest South Carolina.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice is taking on Democratic state Rep. Robert Williams in the 7th District. Rice is the only congressman the district which stretches from Darlington to Florence has ever known. Williams is also running to keep his state House seat.

There will be at least one new face from South Carolina in the U.S. House. Republican state Sen. William Timmons faces Democrat Brandon Brown in the 4th District, anchored by Greenville and Spartanburg. The seat is open after Trey Gowdy decided not to run for re-election.

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AMENDMENT

South Carolina voters will decide whether they keep voting on one statewide office.

A state constitutional amendment allowing the governor to appoint the superintendent of education starting in 2023 is on the ballot.

Supporters think having the governor appoint the head of schools in South Carolina assures they work as a team. Opponents said the proposal takes power away from the people.

Voters in South Carolina have already taken the adjutant general and lieutenant governor positions off ballots this decade.

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For AP’s complete coverage of the U.S. midterm elections: http://apne.ws/APPolitics

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