In recent years, the Democratic path to electoral success in the northeastern (Pee Dee and Grand Strand) part of South Carolina has been simple: assume the Democratic voter base in the Pee Dee is locked in and ignore them and then focus on splitting off some of the moderate Republican voters along the coast by tacking to the center while demonizing the Republican candidate as extreme, unethical or both.
While this strategy has generally worked well, it's based on a lot of assumptions that sometimes get upset. Chesterfield County State Representative Ted Vick is finding this out, as his efforts to play the political center are putting him in a political crossfire that is making his bid to win the Democratic nomination for the Seventh Congressional District increasingly challenging.
Several weeks ago, Vick resigned his membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council, a generally conservative association for state legislators, in response to rumblings by the liberal Democratic base about his membership in the group. This came after rumors floated around Columbia that he had been talking with Republican legislators about switching parties to ensure that he would survive redistricting - a move which his Congressional bid made a moot point.
While Vick may have hoped this move would make him more palatable to his party's base, today's endorsement of Gloria Bromell Tinubu, one of his primary opponents, by the South Carolina chapter of the AFL-CIO made it clear those efforts may not be working. According to AFL-CIO President Donna Dewitt:
After researching and reviewing the records of the candidates running for the new SC Congressional District 7, the SC AFL-CIO has concluded that Gloria Bromell Tinubu has a proven record which best represents the interests of the working people of the new District. The members of the SC AFL-CIO voted unanimously to endorse her candidacy.
As Vick has worked to distance himself from his party's liberal political base, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that these core Democratic constituencies are looking at other candidates in the race. Given the roles liberal organizations like AFL-CIO could play in deciding the outcome of the of low-turnout election which is expected for the Democratic primary (just thirty-three thousand Democrats voted in 7th counties in 2010, compared to nearly forty-eight thousand Republicans), distancing himself from the Democratic Party's liberal base in the hopes of winning the general election might turn out to be a costy move indeed.
This wouldn't be the first time a revolt among Pee Dee Democrats has torpedoed the candidacy of a Democratic nominee for a major office attempting to straddle the political fence. In 1994, the candidacy of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Nick Theodore when an unexpected revolt by Democratic activists from the Pee Dee, including black liberal Democrats as well as several key Democratic legislators, helped carry GOP candidate David Beasley to a close victory.
Thus Vick wouldn't be the first Democrat in the region to try to play the center and come up short.