For the first time since 2000, a black Republican is running in South Carolina’s black-majority 6th Congressional District for the seat Jim Clyburn has held more than two decades.
“The timing is right,” the Rev. Leon Winn, a Baptist minister with a church in Manning, told The Associated Press this week. “The people who first put Congressman Clyburn in office are in their 70s. You have a generation from 18 to 49 that is really disenchanted.”
Clyburn, the first black congressman to represent the state since Reconstruction and who serves as the assistant Democratic leader in the U.S. House, last faced a black Republican opponent in 2000 when he easily defeated Vince Ellison and a third party candidate.
Clyburn, who is 73, said this summer he is healthy and fit and plans to seek a 12th term in Washington next year in the district reaching from the Pee Dee region of the state into Charleston and Columbia and then southwest along the Interstate 95 corridor to the Georgia state line.
“There will be plenty of time for campaign politics next year so right now Congressman Clyburn is focused on doing the job the people of South Carolina’s 6th District elected him to do,” Clyburn’s spokeswoman Hope Derrick said in a statement.
Race is important in the district “because it was gerrymandered where no one can beat Clyburn in that area,” said Winn, who is 58 and ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat last fall. He is the first Republican to announce for the U.S. House seat that Clyburn first won in 1992.
One thing has changed since a black Republican last ran in the district. South Carolina now has a black GOP U.S. senator in Tim Scott.
Winn, who says he will work with Republican Gov. Nikki Haley to bring more jobs to the district, said he would appreciate any support he can get from Scott. “But I wouldn’t put that burden on him,” he said, noting that Scott has his own re-election campaign to run next year.
Winn says several things have to come together for him to win in the district where Clyburn overwhelmed a third party candidate with 94 percent of the vote last fall.
“The first thing that will have to fall into place is Republicans will have to support me. They are going to have to vote. And we have to convince the Democrats and the black community not to vote a straight ticket. They have to get out there and look at the candidates and see what the candidate is all about,” he said.
The AP left a message seeking comment with Scott.