Lancaster County has long resisted the GOP tide which has swept much of the South Carolina Upstate, serving as one of the biggest stumbling blocks for a number of GOP efforts to oust Fifth District Congressman John Spratt.
While the county reliably went for GOP presidential candidates, it consistently supported the re-election of Democratic Congressman John Spratt, sent Democrats to Columbia and seated them in county government with little exception. The county has been home to a number of powerful Democratic legislators whose seniority has been difficult for local Republicans to work against: State Representatives Tom Magum, who chaired the Ways and Means Committee in the 80s and Jim Hodges, who chaired the Judiciary Committee before serving one term as Governor, as well as Senator Red Hinson, who served nearly three decades in the Senate.
With the exception of former Senator Greg Gregory, the few GOP entrants who have been elected to its legislative delegation in recent years have relied upon GOP votes in districts which overlapped into heavily-Republican York County. But this year, Republicans finally seem to be making headway into turning the Red Rose County into GOP red.
The Blogland first picked up on these changes while attending a Tea Party rally in Lancaster on July 3rd, which saw a turnout of approximately 350, which far exceeeded any previous turnout for a Republican party event in the county. But we've picked up on other signs that the county is turning Republican, which could prove critcally threatening for Spratt's re-election prospects.
The GOP is poised to win both the county's House seats. Incumbent GOP Rep. Deborah Long is running strong in her bid to become the first Republican re-elected to House District 45, which is split between Republican York County and Lancaster County, while Rob McCoy is waging a strong challenge to incumbent Democrat Jimmy Neal in District 44, which is based entirely in the county.
Long is in a strong position to win, with about 50K raised this year and 23K cash on hand, while her opponent has raised a paltry $6500 with less than 2K on hand.
Recent polling has indicated Long has strong leads among both Republican and independent voters, and shows that McCoy is faring well with GOP voters and splitting the independent vote, in spite of Neal's long-time incumbency.
Why does this matter to Spratt's re-election bid? He has long counted on carrying Lancaster County, one of the larger counties in the district. This assumption has been a safe bet when Republicans weren't waging strong local campaigns in the county, but with the county becoming a far more welcoming to Republicans, Spratt won't be able to take the county for granted this year.