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Updated Oct. 14, 2010
Unlike some of his fellow Democrats in conservative districts, Spratt can't plausibly run away from the party's agenda this fall or try to portray himself as a Washington outsider. As House Budget chairman, Spratt is one of of the top lieutenants for Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
But Spratt is hoping that voters will remember the many projects he has helped bring to the district during his long tenure in Congress, as well as a constituent service program that has won praise even in Republican circles.
For GOP nominee Mick Mulvaney, the narrative of the 5th district contest is how a likable, old-line Southern Democrat from a mostly rural and conservative district lost his way and became a rubber stamp for a radically liberal agenda pursued by President Barack Obama and party leaders.
Mulvaney points out that Spratt was a "yes" vote for the three most controversial pieces of legislation the House has considered this Congress: the stimulus, cap-and-trade and health care. And though Spratt is often celebrated for his efforts to produce a balanced budget in the late 1990s, Republicans have hit him this cycle for his failure to produce a budget resolution. Mulvaney thinks the move is a deliberate attempt by Spratt to help hide the ballooning spending and deficits.
The committees of the national parties are expected to invest heavily in the upstate district and, with Spratt's leadership connections, the race has become a subject of national interest this cycle.
District Profile from Politics in America
The expansive 5th District covers all or part of 14 mostly rural counties in the north-central part of the state, stretching from near Charlotte, N.C., to the Columbia suburbs, while also spreading west to Newberry County and east to Dillon County. Tobacco farmers, white-collar Charlotte commuters and textile workers make this a conservative district, although it still clings to traditional Southern Democrat roots.
Lee, Darlington, Marlboro and Dillon counties grow wheat, as well as cotton for the textile mills that once dominated the economy here. Downsizing and closure of textile plants has led to high unemployment rates, and local officials struggle to keep existing textile jobs while expanding the local economy. Darlington and Dillon also depend heavily on tobacco farming.
Sumter, once the center of an agricultural landscape, also has manufacturing jobs. To the west, Shaw Air Force Base is a key employer. In York County to the north, Rock Hill hosts Winthrop University and white-collar commuters who work in Charlotte.
The 5th tends to favor Republicans in federal races, but conservative Democratic candidates who appeal to the district's numerous poor and rural residents can win in local races here. Democrats also are helped by the district's black residents, who make up 30 percent of the population -- the largest of any South Carolina district except the black-majority 6th.
Agriculture, military, tobacco, textiles
Shaw Air Force Base, 6,000 military, 500 civilian (2011)
Rock Hill, 66,154; Sumter (pt.), 21,048
The annual Lee County Cotton Festival and Agricultural Fair celebrates the agricultural history of "King Cotton."
|2010||general||Mick Mulvaney (R)||125,834||55.1%|
|John Spratt (D)||102,296||44.8%|
|2008||general||John Spratt (D)||188,785||61.6%|
|Albert Spencer (R)||113,282||37%|
|Frank Waggoner (CNSTP)||4,093||1.3%|
|2006||general||John Spratt (D)||99,669||56.9%|
|Ralph Norman (R)||75,422||43.1%|
|2004||general||John Spratt (D)||152,867||63%|
|Albert Spencer (R)||89,568||36.9%|
|2002||general||John Spratt (D)||121,912||85.9%|
|Doug Kendall (LIBERT)||11,013||7.8%|
|Steve Lefemine (CNSTP)||8,930||6.3%|
|2008||Barack Obama: 46%||John McCain: 53%|
|2004||John Kerry: 42%||George W. Bush: 57%|
|2000||Al Gore: 43%||George W. Bush: 55%|