Republican 1st Congressional District candidate John Kuhn served in office before, as a state senator from Charleston in 2001-04 and he is running partly on his record in Columbia.
Kuhn cites his 2003 last-minute filibuster against a multimillion-dollar bond bill as proof that he is both independent and fiscally responsible.
The Post and Courier plans to profile all 19 Republican and Democratic 1st Congressional District candidates by the March 19 primaries. This is the first installment. Click here for complete coverage of the special election.
“We couldn't afford it,” he says now of the bond bill, the demise of which made Kuhn enemies among others in the Charleston delegation and likely played a role in his 2004 primary loss to Chip Campsen.
FEB. 17: Deadline to register to vote in the primaryMARCH 19: Republican and Democratic primariesAPRIL 2: Primary runoff (if needed)MAY 7: Special election
“I managed to fight and block it (the bond bill), and what that tells the voter is I have the courage to stand up, even against the leadership of my own party, if necessary,” he adds.
But Kuhn, 50, also indicates he has mellowed during the past eight years when he has worked as an estate lawyer, outside the public spotlight.
“I have a personality that gets along with everybody,” he says. “I should have used that more in the Statehouse, and when I go to Washington, I will use that more.”
“There are 435 congressmen, and you have to work with them to get somewhere,” he said.
As with many Republicans in the race, Kuhn cites the nation's budget deficit as the top issue and rejects the idea of raising taxes. While campaigning, he points out the nation spends $3.8 trillion but takes in only $2.4 trillion.
“If we can balance the budget, a lot of things will solve themselves right away,” he says.
Kuhn has no detailed plan for trimming $1.4 trillion in spending but says, for example, the U.S. Department of Education should be closed down.
He says one thing that shouldn't be touched is Social Security, particularly for those older than 50 who are relying on it. “Social Security, in my book, is sacrosanct,” he adds.
Kuhn says his business experience makes him unique, including five years that he spent building an export business and the boutique law firm that he built with his wife, Shea.
Charm Altman, president of the S.C. Federation of Republican Women, recalled the enemies Kuhn made during his years in the Statehouse but was very impressed recently hearing him talk about his experience in business and trade. “He's not as dumb as everybody thinks he is,” she said. “He's a very sharp young man.”
He says the Lowcountry needs a congressman with experience in trade, adding, “I'm going to be a huge supporter of the port of Charleston and dredging.” As a senator, he helped redirect the Port of Charleston's planned expansion from Daniel Island to the former Charleston Naval Base.
He notes his law firm has offices in both Charleston and Bluffton — at both ends of the newly drawn congressional district. “I'm the only one in the race earning a living in the other part of the district.”
Kuhn faces 15 other GOP challengers in the March 19 primary. The special election to fill the seat vacated by Sen. Tim Scott will be May 7.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.