The state Republican Party will hold its 1st Congressional District debate on March 28 instead of March 14. The wait will let the party’s primary voters winnow the field from 16 to two.
S.C. GOP Chairman Chad Connelly announced the change Tuesday at Porter-Gaud, the private school in West Ashley where the debate will be held.
Technically, one Republican candidate could win the March 19 primary outright if he or she manages to get more than 50 percent of the vote, but the jam-packed field of 16 makes that the longest of shots.
The cancellation of the March 14 debate, which was expected to be the sole televised forum for the candidates, is the most concrete example of how challenging it has been to vet such a large field.
“It’s pretty difficult to put 16 podiums on a stage,” Connelly said. “It’s not exactly a made-for-TV event.”
Connelly said the party considered winnowing the field for the debate, but that idea didn’t pan out.
The large field has posed challenges for those conducting GOP candidate forums, some of which have posed as few as two questions. A Thursday forum by the state’s Republican Liberty Caucus has split the candidates into three panels.
Sixteen candidates is believed to be a modern-day record for a South Carolina congressional race, though a similar race in Illinois to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat drew more than 20 candidates.
There also are two Democrats in their own March 19 primary, and the potential for third-party candidates still to emerge.