ANDERSON — A wave of retirement announcements by House Republicans in recent weeks won't hit the shores of South Carolina anytime soon.
All five of the Palmetto State's incumbent GOP congressmen told The Post and Courier they are running for re-election next year, undeterred by the occasionally frustrating reality of life in the minority that may have contributed to some of their colleagues calling it quits.
"Just because there’s adversity and you’re in the minority doesn’t mean you ought to give up, so that really doesn’t factor into any decisions I make," U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens, said.
While at least 15 House Republicans have decided to leave Congress, all of South Carolina's lawmakers expressed a desire to help their party try to win back the majority or, failing that, at least work to stem the progress of the Democrats' agenda.
Each one also has some individual reasons for wanting to keep going.
Duncan landed his dream assignment in 2017 on the Energy and Commerce Committee, which he had been pursuing for years beforehand.
"I'm on the committee I want to be on and hopefully we'll win the majority back," said Duncan, first elected in 2010. "So I'm continuing to pursue the legislative goals that I ran on back in 2010, that's trying to address spending and address our debt."
For U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, his longtime goal of building Interstate 73 to connect his hometown of Myrtle Beach to the highway system remains an ongoing challenge — one that requires teamwork both on the ground in Horry County and in Washington, where federal funding assistance is key.
"I will keep fighting for that as long as I'm in office," said Rice, who has spent seven years in Congress. "It'll help with tourism. It'll help with diversifying the industrial base. It'll help with evacuation. It'll help with this explosive population growth."
U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, the longest-serving S.C. Republican in the House at 18 years, has risen to become the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee for Middle East, North Africa and International Terrorism — and he said he has been pleasantly surprised by the cooperative relationship he has built with the subcommittee's chairman, U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla.
"I was really concerned about being in the minority and whether we could make a difference or not, but we can," said Wilson of Springdale.
At 72, Wilson is the second oldest member of the S.C. delegation, and he said health could be one consideration when he eventually does decide to step away from politics. But, pointing to a Fitbit on his wrist, Wilson said that hasn't been an issue for him yet.
"Fortunately for me, I’m really grateful that I stay in shape with 12 to 18,000 steps a day," he said.
U.S. Rep. William Timmons, R-Greenville, just got to Congress this year and is the youngest member of the delegation at 35. And U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, won his seat in a 2017 special election. Both have voiced support for term limits, but both still have plenty of years left before reaching that stage.
Norman, a particularly combative member of the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, appears to actually relish the chance to go toe-to-toe with Democrats in Congress.
"If you look at what the left is doing, it's socialism," Norman said. "It's an honor to fight that. I'm more excited now than when I took office."
Members who stick around could also be well-positioned to run for the U.S. Senate whenever a South Carolina seat next opens up — a prospect that both Norman and Timmons said they could be interested in further down the line.
Both of the state's Democrats are also seeking another term in office for reasons that may seem even more obvious.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, D-Columbia, will likely keep his powerful perch as the third-ranking member of the House if Democrats hold on to their majority. And U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-Charleston, only just arrived and is working to hold onto a seat that Democrats hadn't previously won for 40 years.
One contributing factor for some of the GOP exits is a party rule that limits members to six years as committee chairmen. Democrats have imposed no such limits, leading some of them to spend many years holding onto the influential chairmanships, while Republicans are soon forced back into the lower rank-and-file.
President Donald Trump opined this week that Republicans should consider doing away with the practice.
"It forces great people, and real leaders, to leave after serving," Trump tweeted. "The Dems have unlimited terms. While that has its own problems, it is a better way to go. Fewer people, in the end, will leave!"
But among rank-and-file Republicans, the rule remains popular, giving them an opportunity to climb the ladder faster than up-and-coming Democrats can.
"Republicans seem to be about more opportunity for members of Congress, just like we're about more opportunity for the average American citizen," Duncan said. "Giving other members of Congress an opportunity to move up in the ranks and become committee chairmen or subcommittee chairmen, I think it's a great rule."
Most of S.C.'s Republicans have brushed off the retirement announcements from colleagues, noting they may have distinct personal reasons to step aside. But some acknowledge that the departures will make the party's electoral task in 2020 more difficult.
"I think that there's probably more to come," Timmons said, "and our ability to retake the majority will be conditioned on limiting further departures."