Another sign of the increasing GOP strength in the Pee Dee region was the recruitment of Assistant U.S. Attorney Rosemary Parham to challenge incumbent Democratic 12th Circuit Solictor Ed Clements. This is the latest of a ramped-up wave of GOP activity in the region which followed last year's takeover of the Florence County GOP by the Pee Dee Republicans group.
Parham stepped down from her federal job to begin her challenge of Clements in what could be a competitive race, in spite of the GOP never before fielding a candidate for the office. Shifting voting trends in the two-county circuit suggest she could have a shot at winning on the Republican ticket.
The 12th Judicial Circuit is composed of Florence and Marion Counties. Overall, upper-tier GOP statewide candidates lose Marion County by about two-to-one margins while carrying much-larger Florence County by more modest percentages. A comparsion of results from both counties in the '04 and '08 Presidential and Senatorial races, along with the '06 Gubernatorial race showed Republicans winning the circuit in 4 of 5 races, with outcomes ranging from 48.8% to 53.8% of votes cast.
Of these five, only John McCain lost the circuit, and by less than two thousand votes. Given the current voter trends, it would seem likely a major-level GOP candidate could expect to win the collective count from both counties. With the right message, Parham run a very serious candidacy.
Several Solicitor's offices fell to Republicans when rural voters in those areas began shifting into the GOP column beginning in the 1990s. A similar effect has been taking place in this region, most notably marked by the first GOP Sheriff in Florence County and Rep. Phillip Lowe's two knockout victories in a rural district considered to have a Democratic lean. If Parham can capitalize on these shifting trends, she could oust one of the state's few remaining Democratic Solicitors.
Democrats hold just six of the sixteen Solicitor's offices, which presents problems for a Democratic comeback on the statewide level. In a state which hasn't elected an Attorney General without prosecution experience since the first half of the 20th Century, this shrinking pool of candidates means the GOP is increasingly likely to have a lock on the AG's office. Losing Clements would only make things worse for Democrats.
There's a lot at stake for the Pee Dee Republican team as well. They swamped the Florence GOP convention last year, but have yet to show they can win elections. Parham's candidacy is one of their first chances to play in the political big leagues and prove they're more than simply a club of political enthusiasts. Big stakes in the battle for influence in a region which is expected to have its own Congressional district in two years' time.
There's a lot at stake all around, so count on both sides to make this race a top regional priority