Richland Dems

Richland County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Kisner, left, and Field Director Cynthia Watson look at data at the county party's Calhoun Street headquarters.

Every two years, Democrats think they have a shot at taking out Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson in the 2nd Congressional District.

And yet, for nearly two decades, they've come up short.

Now, with the 2020 elections approaching, local Democratic parties in the district are launching an initiative to build a support network for the eventual nominee.

The Richland County Democratic Party is spearheading the Moving Blue initiative, and will collaborate on the program with parties in the other counties in the district, including Lexington, Barnwell, Aiken and Orangeburg. The goal is to create a base of volunteers and donors that will be readily available to the party's nominee next year.

"We are trying to build an infrastructure to turn the district blue," Richland County Democratic Party Chairman Matt Kisner tells Free Times during a recent chat at the county party's Calhoun Street headquarters in Columbia. "We need to change the way we are doing things to move these more stubborn districts.

"The way it's been going is that every campaign comes in and builds its little city, with their volunteers and activists and donors and everything. Then when they lose, poof, it's gone and the next person is starting over from scratch. ... Ideally, the party should be building this infrastructure, so we're not starting from scratch every time."

Wilson served in the U.S. House since 2001, and it's been particularly tough for Democrats to gain traction against him in recent election cycles. 

In 2018, Wilson turned back Democrat Sean Carrigan by nearly 14 percentage points. In 2016, he downed Arik Bjorn by 25 points, and in 2014 he beat Phil Black by 27 points.

But there seems to be renewed energy on the left to go after Wilson's seat. Three Democrats — Adair Ford Boroughs, Lawrence Nathaniel and Viresh Sinha — have announced their intent to seek the seat.

Boroughs, in particular, has flexed her fundraising muscles early on. The attorney has brought in $495,000 in campaign cash this year, as of the end of September. Meanwhile, Wilson had raised just more than $400,000 for the year through the end of September, per Federal Election Commission records.

Kisner says the Moving Blue initiative will focus on providing support for the 2nd District nominee that works in tandem with the nominee's own campaign infrastructure.

"The idea is that you kind of cooperate at election time," Kisner says. "But, if the party doesn't do its job, then the campaigns end up working around the party and building their own thing. But, if the party already has an infrastructure, then the campaign is like, 'Great.' They can [delegate] that work to the party, and it takes it off of their plate so they can focus on messaging and the candidate-focused parts of the campaign."

Carrigan, the party's 2018 nominee who ultimately fell to the Republican incumbent, called the coalition of the county parties in the 2nd District an "excellent" idea, one that could have helped him during the last election.

"We spent a lot of our money and time toward the end of the primary making sure we secured a victory, and if we had a massive volunteer infrastructure, with a large chunk of funding to boot, waiting for us after we secured the nomination, we'd have been able to keep Joe Wilson playing defense even harder than we already had," Carrigan says.

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