EDITOR’S NOTE: The Post and Courier plans to profile all 18 Republican and Democratic 1st Congressional District candidates by the March 19 primaries. This is the 13th installment.
Birth date: March 20, 1964.Education: Clemson University, B.S. Occupation: President, GTI (Grooms Texaco Inc.).Previous offices held: State Senate District 37, 1997-present.Family: Wife, Carol; three children.Why I’m running: “I have a lifetime of experience that can be put to use to turn this nation from its current direction and put it on a path of stability.”Proudest accomplishment: “My family. They’re everything to me. Ensuring my children will have a better life than I did will take changes in government.”Contact information: larrygrooms.com; firstname.lastname@example.org; 843-580-4115.
BY ROBERT BEHRE
March 19: Republican and Democratic primariesApril 2: Primary runoff (if needed)May 7: Special election
Larry Grooms got into politics almost two decades ago after learning it would cost him $32,000 in up-front costs to start a new convenience store business in Berkeley County.
What irked him most was that he had started the same kind of business there a few years earlier by buying only a $50 building permit.
“That was my wake-up moment, my ‘Aha’ moment,” the Bonneau businessman said, adding he was particularly troubled by the implications for his children. “Something was taken from them — their ability to start a business on a shoestring was gone.”
It led to his growing involvement in Republican politics and ultimately to the state Senate District 37 seat, which he has held since 1997.
In a primary dominated by talk of cutting spending, Grooms has tried to stand out by talking about his fiscally conservative record.
“I’m the only one who actually has voted against budgets,” he said. “I’ve even voted against Mark Sanford’s budget.”
Grooms said he favors a plan put forth by U.S. Rep. Connie Mack, R-Fla., to reduce federal spending by 1 percent a year for the next six years — then capping it at 18 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
“Of course, that’s going to be a little short-term discomfort, but the long-term payoff is the ability to sustain this nation for the next generation,” he said.
Grooms’ campaign scored a coup in the past week as S.C. Republican Reps. Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney announced their support for him. On Tuesday, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and his son, Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey, followed suit.
Duncan said Grooms has proven his ability to stand firm in the face of political pressure.
“It’s easy to talk conservative, much more difficult to vote that way,” said Mulvaney, who served with Grooms in the state Senate, “and I’ve seen Larry Grooms do it time and time again.”
But Grooms also said he can build the necessary support for his ideas. “Leadership is more than about saying, ‘no,’ ” he said. “It’s about building a coalition to move things forward in Washington.”
He has pointed to his contributions in keeping Maersk Line’s container business at the Port of Charleston and restructuring the State Ports Authority, luring Tire Kingdom to the Lowcountry, and his reform of the state Department of Transportation.
“I’m passionate about what I believe in, but I’m also a pretty good salesman,” he said. “The same principles apply to leadership whether it’s in business or politics. What is the long-term goal, how do we achieve it and build a team to be able to ensure that it occurs? That’s my skill set. It’s as if I’ve been training for this job for the past 15 years.”
Grooms’ campaign made headlines early in the campaign when GING (Government is not God)-PAC endorsed him at the same time its website accused President Barack Obama of “queering” and “feminizing” the military — a reference to his repeal of the military’s “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy toward gay service members.
Grooms said he was glad to have the group’s endorsement and said those statements weren’t official statements from the group.
“I’ve got a lot of support in this race,” he said, adding he was glad for GING-PAC’s nod. “Do I support everything that anyone posts on their website? Certainly not.”