“We believe that we should easily pass Department of Justice or district court muster without too much difficulty,” said state Rep. Alan Clemmons, chairman of the Election Laws Subcommittee.
Under the map being circulated, the new district leans Republican, but Harpootlian was bullish on Democrats’ chances there. The proposed new district would have a black voting age population of 28 percent.
“With [President] Barack Obama on the top of the ticket, we have a chance to generate excitement among Democrats, like we did in ’08,” Harpootlian said. “I think we have a good chance of picking up one, if not two, additional Congressional seats.”
Harpootlian noted that he thought counties such as Horry and Georgetown in the newly drawn 7th district could swing Democratic. But even in the banner Democratic year of 2008, the majority of voters in those counties voted for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), and the prospect that Democrats will make gains in 2012 seems like a tall order.
“The new district could conceivably be described as a swing district, but in reality it’s not” said Will Folks, a libertarian-leaning former political consultant who now runs FITSNews, which he bills as the state’s largest political website. “The fastest-growing part of that district is Republican. It’s going to get more Republican with every election cycle.”
GOP operatives say likely candidates for the new seat include Clemmons, state Rep. Thad Viers, state Sen. Luke Rankin and former Lt. Gov. André Bauer.
Top Republicans in the state, such as longtime consultant Warren Tompkins, don’t see a path to South Carolina having more than one Democrat in its delegation in January 2013.
“Everybody’s been saying there’s going to be a big vote for Obama, but I think equally they’ll be as big a vote on the opposite side,” Tompkins said. “It looks like we ought to have six Republicans and one Democrat when all is said and done.”
But state Democrats, at least at this early stage, say they are unwilling to write it off. “I think the 7th is going to tighter than Republicans think,” said Tyler Jones, a Democratic operative based in Charleston.
One point of contention with the proposed lines will be in the northwestern part of the state, where Greenville County has been split between the 3rd and 4th districts. Freshman Rep. Trey Gowdy (R) currently represents all of Greenville County and hopes it will stay that way.
Robert Hughes, Gowdy’s communications director, said the Congressman wanted the new 4th district “to as closely resemble the current Congressional district as legally permissible.”