Tim Scott is moving closer to becoming South Carolina's first black Republican of the modern era to reach the House of Representatives in a race for Charleston's seat in Congress that shows no inkling of becoming competitive in the next four weeks.
Although the ballot shows a crowded seven-way field for the coastal 1st District, none of the other candidates is gaining much traction. Barring a last-minute upheaval, Scott should win the seat Nov. 2 in a district that's gone Republican for the past 30 years, and stretches from Charleston to Myrtle Beach.
Republicans in Congress are eager to welcome Scott for what they project as a potential GOP takeover of the House in November. Scott talks to House Republican leader John Boehner often. He and party Whip Eric Cantor speak every other week, and chief candidate recruiter Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California "is on speed dial."
Scott is running against Democrat Ben Frasier, a perennial candidate who has never won or held elective office but has tried repeatedly since 1972. One pundit called him the most-defeated candidate in America.
Also on the ballot are representatives of five other parties, including the Green, Libertarian, Working Families, United Citizens and Independence.
Even with all signs pointing his way, Scott hasn't slowed down in his bid to become the first black GOP congressman since J.C. Watts of Oklahoma retired in 2003 after eight years. Two weeks ago, Scott spent a tiring 12 hours campaigning in Georgetown County, "but it was a good 12 hours," he said.
At each stop, Scott speaks of the optimism that made him run for political office, starting with the 13 years he spent on Charleston County Council and how he nearly flunked out of classes at Stall High School until he realized education is the key to opening doors.
"The best of America is still yet to come," Scott said while waiting to speak to the Charleston Rotary Club. "The American people is the answer to what ails us."
Scott, who is surrendering his North Area seat in the S.C. Legislature to run for Congress, won the GOP nomination in June after defeating Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond, son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond, in a primary runoff. Incumbent Republican Henry Brown announced months ago he was retiring. The last black Republican to represent South Carolina in Congress, Rep. George Washington Murray, left office in 1897.
On the stump, Scott, 45, is more politically aligned with U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint than the state's other GOP senator, Lindsey Graham, and speaks up the traditional conservative stances of lower taxes and less spending. He rails against earmarks, claiming if the GOP takes over in November, budgeting will be less corrupt.
"The earmark system as we know it is dead from the Republican perspective," he said, adding "the earmark system leaves us with crumbs while others get the loaves."
Additionally, he predicts gridlock for a while in Washington if there's a GOP takeover, until the dust settles. Scott has pledged to limit himself to four terms in the House, if elected.
The other candidates include:
Ben Frasier, Democrat
Frasier, 68, lives on Wadmalaw Island but spends much of his time helping with three family businesses in the Washington, D.C., area, including a driving school, shuttle service and private investigation firm. He has run for political office every election cycle but two since 1972, pegging his passion to run to his work as an aide for former Charleston congressman Mendel Rivers.
"He opened my eyes to a lot of things," Frasier said. On the stump, Frasier sounds more Republican than Democrat. He said he is uncommitted on the Obama health care package because he hasn't researched it, while his campaign stances underscore the right to bear arms, closing the borders to illegal immigrants, lower taxes and a strong national defense.
Keith Blandford, Libertarian
Blandford, 37, a general contractor from Sullivan's Island, said he decided to run because he was fed up with the financial polices of Republicans and Democrats. Washington has shown that it is not effective at policing any kind of spending, he said. "The argument isn't whether we should have health care or not, it's can we afford it?" he said.
The dollar is getting historically weaker, he said, setting the U.S. up for a collapse similar to what eroded the former Soviet Union.
Financially, Congress is "kicking the can down the road and at this point, there's nowhere else to kick it," he said. Blandford grew up in Smithfield, Va., and has lived in the Lowcountry for about 11 years.
Robert Dobbs, Green Party
Dobbs, of Georgetown, flirted with running as a Democrat and then changed to the Green party. He did not reply to phone messages or e-mails left by The Post and Courier.
Rob Groce, Working Families
Groce, 42, of Summerville, is an independently employed marketing researcher. He said he decided to run to represent the needs of working people, saying they were not being adequately recognized or defended by Frasier, the Democratic Party candidate.
Particularly, Groce sees a hostile climate against organized labor and workers as the downturn in the economy has put most of the jobs control and pay in the hands of business. He is originally from New Orleans and has lived in the area for about five years. He attended the 2008 Democratic National Convention as a John Edwards delegate.
M.E. "Mac" McCullough, United Citizens
McCullough, 69, of Summerville, is retired from the Air Force. He said he supports the UCP out of its main goal of "fairness, justice and jobs for all."
He decided to run based on the direction the country is taking, saying the two major parties are ineffective and that Wall Street is working for the greedy and selfish betterment of itself.
"The American people have lost trust and faith in its most sacred institutions," he said. "My country is in a mess. I love my county and I want to help fix it."
Jimmy Wood, Independence
Wood, 38, of Summerville, is an Air Force veteran who works as an area defense contractor. He registered in the Independence party as the catch-all "home" for candidates who don't want to run under the other party labels and face other hurdles getting on the ballot.
He previously was a Republican and considers himself staunchly conservative. The problem is, the GOP left its core values, he said.
"The fiscal irresponsibility of the Republicans led us into the mess we're in now," he said, adding that the Obama Democrats followed and "took the reins of that horse and ran for a whole new level."
He said he is running as a fiscal conservative "that is not tied to the obligation of following party lines."
Reach Schuyler Kropf at 937-5551.
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