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In New S.C. District, Primary Is No Sure Thing

Tim Dominick/the State/MCT
Republican candidates for South Carolina’s new 7th district, including former Lt. Gov. André Bauer (above) and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice, are trying to highlight their résumés to help them stand out in the wide-open field.

"My credentials as a CPA and a tax lawyer give me expertise that the other candidates don't have," Rice said. "As an accountant I know how to balance books and, doggone it, I know we could use that in Washington," he added with a laugh. Republicans in the state see him getting support from the powerful Myrtle Beach Chamber of Commerce. Rice's opponents are likely to paint him as a little too ambitious, filing his Federal Election Commission paperwork for a Congressional run after having been in the county-wide office for less than a year.

Bauer, as a former statewide officeholder, will have strong name identification in the district. And he's popular with seniors because of his work on issues important to them during his time as lieutenant governor.

"I've been in office a long time and I've got a record of not raising taxes," he said. "We've found a way in tough, tough times to make the numbers work."

Bauer rose to momentary national fame during his failed gubernatorial bid in 2010 when he drew a stark comparison between people who receive government assistance and "stray animals." His opponents won't let voters forget that comment. But Bauer said his frankness is a virtue, noting he speaks from the heart and doesn't have political consultants or a staff.

Pressed about the comments, Bauer responded tartly: "If I was smart, I wouldn't take your call, I'd let a political consultant take it."

Jordan, 32, will portray himself as a conservative outsider, a problem-solving nonpolitician.

But parochial concerns may end up playing the biggest role in the race. Jordan is from the Pee Dee region while the other top-tier candidates live in the Myrtle Beach area of Horry County.

Asked how he would convince Horry County voters, who are likely to make up half the primary electorate, to vote for someone from a different region, Jordan was direct.

"One at a time," he said with a chuckle. "It's going to all these counties and saying, 'If you want something different than what goes to Washington already, I'm the true conservative in the race.'"

South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian was bullish on his party's prospects in the 7th district, which would have voted just under 46 percent for Barack Obama in 2008 according to numbers crunched by a Democratic source.

"If a Democrat can portray themselves as someone who is not going to be part of the Nancy Pelosi or John Boehner House 'a pox on both their house and I'm going to straighten it out,'" they can win,
Harpootlian said.

Many Democrats think state Rep. Ted Vick, the likely Democratic nominee, is that candidate. A lieutenant colonel in the National Guard, he's been endorsed by the Blue Dog political action committee.

Vick said he is running against a do-nothing Congress and "extremists on the left and extremists on the right."

But it will be an uphill battle for those with a D after their name to win in the conservative Palmetto State.

Still, in South Carolina politics, nothing is for sure. Just ask Thad Viers.

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