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On a Run of Strong Congressional Candidates

Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call
South Carolina businessman Tom Rice has the makings of a strong Member of Congress, and he’s a lock to win in a newly created Horry County-based district, Stuart Rothenberg writes.

I’m not sure whether it’s the summer heat, a side effect of the aging process or simply dumb luck, but I’ve met a string of unusually good Congressional candidates recently.

Not all of them will win — in part because some of them are running against each other — but they are all worth monitoring during this cycle and beyond.

South Carolina businessman Tom Rice (R) has the makings of a strong Member of Congress, and he’s a lock to win in a newly created Horry County-based (Myrtle Beach) district.

An attorney who segued into the commercial real estate business, Rice’s first foray into politics was two years ago, when he ran successfully to become chairman of the Horry County Council. He became involved in local politics in part because of his concerns about the deleterious effects that growing motorcycle rallies could have on the community.

Former Lt. Gov. André Bauer (R), who had the backing of the National Rifle Association, local tea party activists, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, attacked Rice in the GOP runoff as a “moderate,” but Rice won by 12 points.

Rice has refused to sign ATR’s no-tax pledge, but he is a conservative who bridles at the all-or-nothing approach to politics.

“As a tax lawyer, I’ve been involved in thousands of deals, and I’ve never seen one where I got everything that I wanted,” he said in a recent interview.

Sean Patrick Maloney (D) won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (he is very ambitious), but he’s an unquestionably strong challenger to freshman Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) in a very competitive district.

A graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Virginia Law School, he started working for Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign in 1992. For most of Clinton’s second term, Maloney worked in a senior position in the White House. After a brief stint in the private sector, he lost an uphill primary bid for New York attorney general.

He eventually served as deputy chief of staff for then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D), and he stayed on when David Paterson (D) became governor following Spitzer’s resignation.

Maloney, who is openly gay and moved into the district only this spring, is very political. He ran to the left to win his party’s nomination but is likely to stress his Clinton connection — and benefit from the former president’s endorsement — in the general election.

Voters in North Carolina’s 11th district should consider themselves very lucky. Each party has nominated an excellent candidate in the open-seat contest.

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