Winners, losers and kingmakers in the 4th District race

More tough news came in for Bob Inglis' congressional re-election campaign in the 4th District, as campaign finance disclosures showed a close money race between Inglis and 7th Circuit Solicitor Trey Gowdy. This is yet another sign that the Fourth District race, which we talked about recently, is heating up.

While State Senator David Thomas' candidacy is failing to attract notable support, falling way behind Gowdy and Inglis in fundraising, he still has the benefit of his long-time incumbency in his Greenville Senate district. Even if Thomas fails to make a strong overall showing, he could still be an important factor in the 4th District race.

Many 4th races have shown a degree of rivalry between Greenville and Spartanburg Counties. In recent years, the seat has gone either to those candidates from Greenville County, or those who won Spartanburg while splitting the Greenville vote:

  • Former Congresswoman Liz Patterson, from Spartanburg, fended off Greenville-based competition three times with strong showings in Greenville, only to lose to Inglis in 1992. Inglis' victory over Patterson was built around a strong showing in Greenville County, which Patterson was unable to offset with her Spartanburg base.

  • Senator Jim DeMint started his political career by winning the seat in 1998, when Inglis left the seat to a wage a failed Senate bid. The three major contenders for the GOP nomination were DeMint and State Senator Mike Fair, both from Greenville, and former State Senator Jim Ritchie from Spartanburg. While Ritchie finished third in the primary, he led in Spartanburg. Ritchie's endorsement of DeMint in the run-off vote helped DeMint win big in Spartanburg, while Fair and DeMint split Greenville, allowing Spartanburg to put DeMint over the top.

Inglis' return in 2004 was a lackluster race, as were the next two races, but with an agressive effort being waged by four challengers, who have collectively outraised him by about $200,000 and hold a rough parity to Inglis in cash on hand, it's clearly not going to be one of those usual affairs. While signs increasingly point to him and Gowdy as being the candidates to watch, it's hard to see how he or Gowdy will be able to wrap this race up in the primary, requiring a run-off.

Thomas could carry enough support with his Greenville County political base to help decide the run-off with an endorsement that either helps Inglis shut Gowdy out of Greenville or allows Gowdy to split Greenville County, presuming Gowdy is a strong favorite in his home county.

The other two candidates, Christina Jeffrey or Jim Lee, are far behind in the money race and they're not expected to earn sizable amounts of support in this race, but it's hard to see them throwing their support behind Inglis in the runoff. But in a close race, even their support could matter.

The growing possibility of a run-off mean Thomas and the others could play important roles in the outcome of the 4th District race, which is fast developing into a free-for-all in which the outcome is far from decided.

2 Response to "Winners, losers and kingmakers in the 4th District race"

  1. James 18/4/10 17:48
    Gowdy is making in-roads in what I'd call the "country-club Republican" set in Greenville County who want to get on-board the "Throw Bob from the Train" train but aren't attracted to the tea party-like candidacies of Jeffrey and Lee. The whole "Greenville vs. Spartanburg" political rivalry is not as pronounced once you get out of the two downtown business communities and into the suburbs of either county, at least from what I have found.
  2. Earl Capps 18/4/10 18:16
    James, I'll agree with you. The geographical split runs hand-in-hand with identity in terms of demography and political outlooks. It's not as simple as "we live here, you live there", even though that's the way it looks on the surface.

    There are several different political groupings in Greenville County, the most notable being downtown, the socially-conservative bloc around BJU, and then the southern suburbanites. They're certainly not always bound together, which is how candidates have been able to split Greenville.

    Patterson did well getting downtown-based moderates, and DeMint ran well with downtown and him and Fair competed for the Golden Strip suburbanites.

    Downtown moderates, nor BJU social conservatives have been the least willing to throw in with Spartanburg in races, given it's tendency to be more blue collar and less concerned with socially conservative issues, and the Golden Strip voters tend to care little about geography and are more like the folks in Spartanburg, so tend to vote issues and identity.

    It'll be interesting to see how this race plays out. It's been a long time since an incumbent in the 4th had a fight like this on their hands.

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