Key dates

Feb. 12: Candidates invited to appear before the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce in what is expected to be their first joint appearance.March 19: GOP and Democratic primaries will be held.April 2: Primary runoffs, if needed.May 7: General election.

Sixteen Republicans and three Democrats filed for the 1st Congressional District seat formerly held by Sen. Tim Scott — and that’s a record, in recent history at least, in the coastal district.

The field is not a record nationally. In Chicago, 22 filed to fill the seat of outgoing U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.

The 19 candidates have only eight weeks to campaign before their respective primaries on March 19.

The field is large partly because no one has had to give up their current office — or seek two offices at once — in order to run. But only five candidates currently hold elective office. About a third have never run before.

The district includes parts of Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton and Dorchester counties. The field would have been larger, but Democrat Bobbie Rose, who had filed, withdrew her name Monday.

Still more candidates could emerge later from conventions held by third parties, such as the Green, Independent and Libertarian parties.

Here’s a brief look at the strengths and weaknesses of the field to date:

Democrats

Elizabeth Colbert-Busch

Pros: As development director for the Clemson wind-turbine facility in North Charleston, she speaks with authority on energy resources. The only female in the Democratic field might have fundraising advantages.

Cons: Will her run be overshadowed by her famous brother, comedian Stephen Colbert? Her voting history shows a record of participating in GOP primaries.

Ben Frasier

Pros: The only black candidate in the race, he has appeal to the core voting segment among Democratic voters.

Cons: Has run for this congressional seat 18 times with no luck, perhaps because he has sounded like more of a Republican than a Democrat on the stump — and because he’s done little to campaign.

Martin Skelly

Pros: The Charleston-based businessman has international experience and currently serves as managing director of UFG Asset Management, which does business in Russia.

Cons: Skelly is a virtual unknown in local political circles. He’s never held or run for office before and is relatively new to the area.

Republicans

Keith Blanford

Pros: The Sullivan’s Island businessman and veteran ran for the 1st District seat as a Libertarian in November and could rally the GOP’s Ron Paul wing.

Cons: He got only 6,334 votes out of more than 290,000 cast and is still largely unknown in the district.

Curtis Bostic

Pros: Former Charleston County councilman and lawyer could have appeal among religious right and fiscal conservatives.

Cons: With demands from a young family and from heading up his own law firm, how much time can he spend on the campaign trail? Lost council re-election in 2008.

Ric Bryant

Pros: A little-known candidate with an appealing message may catch fire, just like Mark Sanford did when he first ran for Congress in 1994.

Cons: Most little-known candidates never approach the double digits, percentage-wise, when the votes are counted.

Larry Grooms

Pros: This Bonneau businessman has been an affable presence in GOP circles since his election as state senator in 1997; has chaired Senate Transportation Committee.

Cons: His 2010 gubernatorial bid banked on tea party support, but it proved a weak brew and he bowed out early. His home is in a small corner of the district.

Jonathan Hoffman

Pros: A Charleston small-business owner, educator and Air Force Reserve officer served as director of Border Security at the White House under President George W. Bush.

Cons: Hasn’t run for office before — at least not around these parts — and is largely an unknown.

Jeff King

Pros: Same as Bryant’s.

Cons: Same as Bryant’s: It’s never a good thing when the chairwoman of the district’s largest county Republican Party has no clue who you are.

John Kuhn

Pros: As a young lawyer, he won the District 43 state Senate seat in 2000 and lives in Charleston, home base of the district.

Cons: Lost the District 43 state Senate seat in 2004 after a public row with then Gov. Mark Sanford’s wife Jenny.

Tim Larkin

Pros: Same as Bryant’s and King’s.

Cons: Same as Bryant’s and King’s.

Chip Limehouse

Pros: His 18 years as a state House member makes him among the most well-known folks in the race. Has deep family ties and a home in the district’s heart (Charleston).

Cons: Stirred controversy last year by trying to have the Charleston County Aviation Authority executive director report directly to him.

Peter McCoy

Pros: This young lawyer was able to wrest the District 115 House seat from Democrats and is seen as a rising star in the party.

Cons: He’s served less than three years in the Statehouse, may not be well known beyond James Island.

Elizabeth Moffly

Pros: This Charleston County School Board member is the only female in the GOP race. She finished second in the 2010 Republican S.C. superintendent of education primary (lost to Mick Zais).

Cons: Not widely known outside of day-to-day school district matters, supported a controversial pay raise for the school board.

Ray Nash

Pros: The former three-term Dorchester County sheriff can try to claim the law-and-order mantle and may lure support from the long-dormant religious right wing of party.

Cons: Dorchester County is a small portion of district, and Nash’s strong religious opinions may turn off coastal GOP moderates.

Andy Patrick

Pros: The second-term state House member from Hilton Head Island represents a strong GOP area newly added to the 1st District.

Cons: Most 1st District voters are concentrated in the Charleston area and haven’t gotten to know him well.

Shawn Pinkston

Pro: Served on active duty with the Army for three years as a captain and lawyer in military justice. Deployed to Iraq. Pinkston is a Daniel Island resident now in private practice specializing in medical malpractice defense.

Cons: Among the least-known in the field in terms of Republican primary name recognition. He’s never held or run for office before.

Mark Sanford

Pros: Sanford held the 1st District seat before, from 1995-2001, entering with no political experience and preaching spending cuts long before there was a tea party. Later served eight years as governor and has the most name recognition in the field.

Cons: Sanford ended his gubernatorial term soon after his affair with an Argentine woman (now his fiancee) that created the euphemism “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” He paid the largest ethics fine in state history: $74,000.

Teddy Turner

Pros: As a political newcomer, Turner is trying to make lightning strike and is playing up his teaching and Citadel graduate credentials, and was the first in the race to air television ads.

Cons: Turner is not widely known in traditional GOP primary circles. Will his famous father, CNN founder Ted Turner, help or hurt him?