Guest op-ed: Rep. Phillip Lowe - "Restore the Pee Dee District"

Today's guest op-ed was penned by Florence County State Representaive Phillip Lowe. Lowe ws first elected to the House in 2006.

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Let me begin by saying, I am an elected official from the Pee Dee Region of South Carolina. I am biased and I fully support the 7th Congressional District being located in the Pee Dee where it was for over 200 years. Our district was taken from us in the gerrymandered redistricting process of 1992. Our region of the state was significantly harmed. The Pee Dee deserves a representative who is from our area and is sensitive to issues facing our region.

The State House and Senate have drawn two different redistricting plans. Both add a 7th congressional district but the house version places the 7th in the Pee Dee while the senate version splits the Pee Dee into four districts and places the 7th in the Beaufort area. On July 26, legislators will choose one version.

SC Districts 1890
Senators Davis and Grooms are friends of mine and well respected conservative allies in government reform. They helped craft the Senate plan and reside in the region where they drew the 7th. Senate Democrats will support the plan that they believe gives them the best shot at electing a democrat. They chose the Senate plan over the house plan. That alone should be enough to rally Senate Sepublicans around the House plan but regional politics and congressional aspirations may have entered the picture.

It is impossible to discuss this issue without bringing up the issue of race. The political tendency of a district is described by the percentage of blacks 18 or older (BVAP). Republicans tend to win when the BVAP is less than 30%, white Democrats thrive in the 30 to 40% range, and black Democrats when it exceeds 40%. Of course there are exceptions. Political parties, Courts and the Justice Department pay close attention to these percentages due to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

SC Districts 1910
The Pee Dee is an area of the state where Caucasians are not completely loyal to a political party. It is commonly referred to as “voting for the man” (no offense ladies). Most of the remaining Caucasian Democrat politicians in SC come from this region. Many Pee Dee residents have been slow to switch parties and are thought to continue to support moderate Democrats even as the political landscape of the state changed.

Change is in the air in Pee Dee politics. If you look at the 2010 congressional 5th district election in the four counties that overlap the House-proposed 7th and the current 5th, you find one of the most dramatic turnarounds in party votes ever seen. The Republican vote percentage in this region rose from 35% to 48%. That is a 37% increase. This includes a 40% increase in Chesterfield County which has to make State Representative Ted Vick scratch his head.

SC Districts 1940
Senator Davis alleges the poor turnout in the Pee Dee for Governor Haley shows we are less likely to choose a Republican Congressman. The comparison does not take into account the proximity of the Pee Dee to Kershaw County, the home of Sheheen. Chesterfield and Darlington counties border Kershaw County. Naturally, Sheheen received a larger percentage of votes from neighboring counties than Haley who lives in Lexington Counties. 

Senator Sheheen is widely known as a moderate Democrat who had a significant campaign presence in the Pee Dee. Haley is a female candidate of Indian descent and a staunch conservative who did not campaign as much in the Pee Dee. Everyone knows Pee Dee voters choose the candidate who they eat chicken bog and BBQ with. All these factors distort and invalidate any comparison based on the Governor's race that suggest we are less Republican than the 7th that produced by the Senate.

SC Districts 1970
Pee Dee Democrats are leaving their party in droves. Congressman Mulvaney’s huge victory and national trounce of congressional Democrats in the 2010 election are perfect examples the erosion of the Democrat party base. The desire of Democrats to raise the debt ceiling and taxes has moderate and conservative Democrats fleeing the party. The Pee Dee is made up of people who know our country cannot continue on this path. We are hard-working people who do not appreciate laziness of the able bodied and are fed up democrats wanting higher taxes. The Democrat vote in the Pee Dee is turning Republican as sure as leaves turn in the fall.

Senator Davis contends the Senate version of the 7th may trend more Republican in the future. Mulvaney’s landslide is proof Republicans in the Pee Dee taking over the historically Democrat strongholds. As Democrats look into the faces of their party and find fewer people with their same beliefs, it will add to the exodus from the party. I have often heard it spoken, “The party left me. I did not leave the party!” Ironically, the protection of minority districts during redistricting will cause further erosion of the Democrat base.

SC Districts 1990
The BVAP does matter. As the State House member with the highest BVAP district held by any Republican, I am here to tell you BVAP does matter. I have been challenged by a Democrat in every general election since my election to the House.

The House version of the Pee Dee 7th offers a BVAP that is 2% lower than Senate plan. This is relevant when you exceed a 30% BVAP, as the Beaufort based Senate plan does. Political consultants believe a moderate Democrat would be competitive in both the House and Senate version of the 7th.

Everyone expects this to end up in court no matter which plan prevails. Minorities within the Democrat party may not be satisfied unless a second minority seat can be won. That would require more gerrymandering than a five year old could produce on an etch-a-sketch.

In the House version, the Pee Dee district is restored and complies with the wishes of the court. It minimizes county splits, preserves metropolitan areas, and protects communities of interest. It would prevent splintering our region into four parts where our needs will be ignored.

The Pee Dee is a region formed by the confluence of the Great and Little Pee Dee Rivers. Rich in history and heritage, we deserve representation in Washington. The people and cultures are interwoven through recreation, media, education, commerce, health care and ancestry. The Pee Dee is family. Our family desperately wants to live in the same “house” once again.

2 Response to "Guest op-ed: Rep. Phillip Lowe - "Restore the Pee Dee District""

  1. Anonymous 23/7/11 17:48
    Mr. Lowe wants to beat up the Senators but maybe he should look at his own House.
  2. Williamsburg Man 24/7/11 13:05
    I am trying my best to stay on the sideline on this one but with that said. The Pee Dee area is not a strong GOP area by no means. While I do not want to make my friends in Florence and other areas mad including Horry. Take a look at a couple of the Senators you guys keep reelecting especially in Florence and Horry. We all need to get away from being so Regional and look at what is best for SC. Senator Larry Grooms is a friend of mine and he is a good Conservative Republican. His District ain't all that GOP and especially when he was first elected and he won. I do not believe for one minute that Senator Grooms is trying to look out for himself and his self interest. I do believe that Representative Alan Clemmons is looking after his best interest in this matter and I do believe that he and a few more want the Grand Strand and Pee Dee District where they can run for Congress more than anything else. I also believe the Grand Strand while right now is pushing the name Pee Dee just wait until this house seat gets done and you will see Horry and Georgetwon go back to Grand Strand. There are good points and bad points in any of this but one area of SC does not trump another area. This is fact not fiction. In the past I was a big supporter of the new seat going to Horry and the Pee Dee with Horry anchoring the new seat. I still am ok with it but there is another plan to examine and I believe that all parties should look at it and see which is best. I bet you a six back of your favorite ale that this goes to court. All I can say is good luck to all involved. As far as I want it is for fairness and as long as the GOP can win it.

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