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South Carolina - 2nd District

Incumbent -- Joe Wilson (R) ; Running for re-election

Safe Republican
Race Ratings Key

Updated May 27, 2010

A rematch of the competitive 2008 House race in South Carolina's 2nd District appears in the offing. Democrat Miller -- a former Marine Corps captain and Iraq War veteran -- announced early on that he will make another attempt to unseat Wilson, now in his fourth full term after first winning the seat in a December 2001 special election.

The stakes for 2010 were raised considerably after Wilson, on Sept. 9, made headlines for shouting "You lie!" at President Obama during his speech to a joint session of Congress on his proposals to overhaul the health care system. The outburst -- aimed specifically at Obama's statement that his plan would not provide any benefits to illegal immigrants -- sparked a media frenzy, and polarized partisan reactions led to heightened profiles for both candidates, as well as a flood of online donations. Both Wilson's and Miller's campaigns reported raising more than $1 million each in the days after the speech.

In the short run, at least, Wilson got the bigger boost. Now a hero to many conservatives who are angry about Obama's policy agenda, he reported nearly $3 million in campaign receipts for the year as of Sept. 30 and had $2.6 million in remaining cash on hand. He has drawn a primary challenge from business owner Phil Black, who retired from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

But Miller enjoyed a fundraising surge too, boosted his Sept. 30 numbers to $1.8 million in receipts and $1.7 million in cash on hand. This could be significant for Miller, who was outspent by a 2-to-1 ratio in 2008 and had less than $50,000 in his 2010 campaign account at the end of June. However, he reported $1.7 million as of March 31. Democrats hope that Miller, if on more equal financial footing with incumbent Wilson, can close the gap this time around.

Wilson's 8 percentage-point victory margin in 2008 didn't exactly make the race a cliffhanger, but it was far closer than his norm in a district that usually leans strongly Republican. This was echoed at the top of the ticket, as Republican presidential nominee John McCain outran Democrat Barack Obama by 9 points - a more modest outcome than President George W. Bush's 20-point margin in 2004.


District Information

District Profile from Politics in America

The 2nd runs from the coast up the Georgia border and into central South Carolina, button-hooking north around Columbia to scoop up some of the capital city. The district's two ends take in wealthy areas -- Columbia suburbs in Richland and Lexington counties, and Beaufort and Hilton Head Island in the south.

Government jobs remain the Columbia area's largest employment base, and ongoing private sector economic diversification has led to jobs in health care. On the Georgia border, the Department of Energy's Savannah River Site nuclear complex (shared with the 3rd) still employs many district residents. Considerably poorer smaller towns and rural areas dot the land between Columbia and Hilton Head, a destination for retirees and tourists.

Military issues are important here -- recruits sweat at the Parris Island Marine Corps recruitment camp just up the shore from swank resorts. Fort Jackson in Richland County in the north and Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station add to the 2nd's heavy military presence.

Although the district overall is nearly two-thirds white, Allendale, Barnwell, Hampton and Jasper counties have high proportions of black residents. Many families in those counties live below the poverty line, relying on tenant farming and sharecropping. That area favored Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election but makes up only a small portion of the 2nd's total vote. Overall, wealthy white-collar professionals in the north and along the coast push the 2nd into the Republican column.

Major Industry

Government, military, tourism, health care, agriculture

Military Bases

Fort Jackson (Army), 9,666 military, 2,654 civilian (2009); Beaufort Marine Corps Air Station, 4,700 military, 667 civilian; Marine Corps Recruit Depot (Parris Island), 1,961 military, 1,456 civilian (2011)


Columbia (pt.), 71,150; Hilton Head Island, 37,099


Mitchelville, established on Hilton Head Island during the Civil War, was the first U.S. town founded specifically for freed black slaves.




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