High tide for the S.C. Senate Democrats?

Tuesday's special election for the vacant Senate seat in Berkeley County may have been the last, best opportunity for the Democrats in the State Senate to stop decades of bleeding.

They recruited a well-known candidate with a record of winning elections, ran a well-funded and polished campaign, but still lost handily. While John West, their candidate, ran much better than their 2004 candidate, getting 42% of the vote does little to regain lost ground.

Just weeks before, their nominee for the special election for District 46 in Beaufort County, chock full of the kind of northern retirees famous for splitting tickets for moderate Democrats, ran a distant second, barely ahead of the Libertarian candidate.

Now, eyes shift northwards, up the Savannah River, to the race to fill the Senate seat recently vacated by long-time incumbent Tommy Moore. This seat is a sprawling conglomeration of rural forests and farmland as well as suburban Aiken County, reaching across four counties. The Republicans fielded six candidates for the seat, with several with strong connections to the Aiken County GOP. Whoever survives the primary and probable run-off will go on to face the sole Democratic candidate, State Representative Bill Clyburn of Edgefield County.

The district may be a somewhat of a toss-up, but the combined weight of the strong local GOP, determined to wipe out the last Democratic holding on their county's Senatoral delegation, and state party organizations should make holding this seat a tough proposition for the Democrats.

History hasn't been good to the Senate Democrats. In the last two decades, the GOP has only yielded three Senate seats to Democrats, one of those a majority-black seat won in a special election. In spite of these losses, the GOP has gone from 11 to 26 seats in the Senate.

The possible retirements of Democratic Senators from GOP-leaning seats in Greenwood and Horry Counties next year create tempting opportunities for the GOP. A potential rematch for the Sumter-based Senate seat between Democratic incumbent Phil Leventis and GOP challenger Dickie Jones, which came down to a margin of dozens of votes, should also present a tempting opportunity. It is hard to imagine that at least one of these three seats won't fall into GOP hands.

A streak of good luck means the Democrats hold their own and remain outnumbered 20-26, but another streak of bad luck could take their numbers down to 16. Just a third of the Senate, and one of the smallest party minorities in any legislative chamber in the United States. These prospects have to have them worried, and GOP strategists salivating.

While they presently hold some power in being able to vote as a bloc and attract the occasional GOP Senator to cross over and vote with them, a shrinking minority will make it even harder for Democrats to convince potential supporters that they are still politically relevant. If they get their noses further bloodied in these upcoming races, it won't make their challenge any easier.

12 Response to "High tide for the S.C. Senate Democrats?"

  1. Owatonna Minnesota Moye 8/8/07 23:28
    You know Earl this is a real good Post.
  2. Joshua Gross 9/8/07 09:40
    I'd like to make a generous and magnanimous offer to the Senate Democrats.

    If we take Moore's seat, we'll give them Hugh Leatherman back.

    Great post, Earl.
  3. west_rhino 9/8/07 11:13
    Joshua, not if, but when... though that could see John Land drift over to be the skunk in the caucus.
  4. Anonymous 9/8/07 12:55
    joshua, you are a RINO - libertarian. When are you going to start getting some L candidates to run?
  5. Anonymous 9/8/07 15:13

    According to your Lbertarian governor, most of the Legislators are RINOs. So the Democratic party is in control anyway.

    BTW--why did you complain so much about the Bean Museum and not at all about the Hunley security detail, the Citadel Stadium, and funding for Heritage Community Services? Could it be that these projects are supported by McConnell, Harrell, and Campsen and not Leatherman?

    You will never gain credibility until you oppose projects based on the merits and not on who sponsoers the project.
  6. Anonymous 9/8/07 16:17
    Yep. It will be 25-years before the Democrats will be back in power. Much less if Sanford keeps fulminating. By the way, did anybody hear any more of the rumors of Leatherman and Rankin switching back to the Dems to give them a majority? Looks like just a rumor.
  7. Mall of America Moye 9/8/07 19:38
    Never been a Leatherman fan but I reckon we need a few of his kind calling themselves republicans.
  8. Anonymous 9/8/07 21:43
    I don't think Jones is going to run in again in Sumter. It doesn't mean the GOP can't find strong opposition for Sen. Leventis, but Jones probably won't be that person. Rep. Smith from over there, is he in that Senate seat's geographical area?
  9. Mecklinberg County Moye 10/8/07 11:01
    Representative Smith would be a good candidate. Pretty nice person and he will tell it like it is.
  10. Clay Pit Crew 12/8/07 16:35
    Bill Clyburn lives in the city of Aiken where his wife serves on City Council. Clyburn's house district gerrymanders across the eastern portions of Aiken county (including minority-majority precincts in the City of Aiken) and Edgefield county (city of Johnston). He has the solid Democrat vote from Aiken and Edgefield counties, but has no constituency in the GOP controlled areas. Asta la vista, Bill!
  11. ROCK RIBBED REPUBLICAN 12/8/07 21:52
    I'm kind of uncomfortable with Smith. He doesn't seem to support Sanford very often. We really need to elect someone who'll stand with the Governor against the GOBs and RINOs. Smith would be too iffy.

    I found Joshua Gross's Leatherman suggestion priceless. Earl, both you and Joshua have keen political insights. Keep driving this state to the right, please.
  12. Clay Pit Crew 26/10/07 15:17
    By the way, no matter what happens in the Senate 25 Special Election, we still have Sen. Setzler in our delegation. He represents the Eastern portion of Aiken County.

    He's not going anywhere anytime soon.

    Also, the more we learn about Shane Massey the less we so sure he is going to win. It all depends on what the Valley area in Aiken County does. By our analysis, Clyburn is far more conservative than Shane Massy has had time to be.

    The GOP prediction on this seat is wishful thinking right now. It should be a slam dunk but with a left wing RINO like Massey, it's hard to say.

    Massey's wife, MS. Ballard, plans on voting for him however.

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