First District Rep. Henry Brown is vying to serve a fifth term in Congress, but first he must overcome two Republican challengers who think they can do a better job.
Johns Island businessman Paul Norris said he's making his first bid for public office because he wants to use his engineer's approach to solving problems that he said threaten the next generation. Professor and U.S. Army reservist Katherine Jenerette of North Myrtle Beach said she is running to provide a more aggressive approach in advancing the Republican cause.
Both challengers aren't hostile to Brown. Jenerette once worked for him, while Norris said he likes Brown. But they also feel it's time for a change.
Like most congressional incumbents, Brown has a sizable financial lead, having raised more than 25 times as much money as both of his primary opponents combined, according to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports.
Norris and Jenerette said they wished there were more opportunities for voters to hear the three Republicans debate, though they have had no luck getting any scheduled.
Brown said he is running on his record, particularly what he has done in providing constituent service. He said examples include helping to secure money for beach renourishment, the new Cooper River bridge, planning for Interstate 73 and other local projects.
"I would hope the constituents would take a good look at me and would recognize that I've been there for them 27 years (local, state and national office), and I would hope that my level of service to them and to my country would be worthy of their vote," he said.
Brown also said he would push for the continued cooperation and consolidation of the Charleston Veterans Affairs hospital into the Medical University of South Carolina.
"We recognize the veterans coming back now from war have a whole lot more medical needs than in previous wars. A lot of the guys who are coming back in this war wouldn't have come back in previous wars," he said. "We're trying to think outside the box to find ways to accomplish that."
He said he also can work across party lines, particularly with 6th District Rep. and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn. "Me and Jim Clyburn represent four counties together, and we work together on a variety of issues. A lot of times we might differ on national policies, but not on issues that pertain to this congressional district."
He said he favors working toward energy independence not only by drilling for natural gas off South Carolina's coast but also by supporting wind and solar power and drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. "I've been to ANWAR. ANWAR is as big as South Carolina. Do you know how much they want to drill on? Two-thousand acres," he said.
Jenerette's campaign notes she is a pick-up-driving paratrooper raising four children — that she "is not your typical politician."
She has sought office before, running for the Horry County School Board in 1998 and a state Senate seat in 2004. She said she decided to run for Congress partly out of frustration of how Republicans squandered their congressional majorities.
"We had the playing field, and we fumbled," she said. "We spent like drunken sailors. We left the party platform behind."
Jenerette said she favors a federal hiring freeze and the Fair Tax, a plan to eliminate the income tax by significantly raising the sales tax. She said her service in the U.S. Army Reserve would make her an important voice on national security issues.
As for the Iraq war, she said, "We can sit here and be Monday morning quarterbacks. We're there because of our national interests. We're there because of oil. What angers me is how we've made it into a political football." She said she supports U.S. Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq and would pounce on his critics.
Jenerette said education is a big issue with her, and she would push to abolish the federal No Child Left Behind Act. "It's created a nightmare bureaucracy for our schools."
Norris has a degree in engineering and more than two decades experience in the energy business, both with SCANA Corp. and with his own propane companies.
He said he has never run for office before but is concerned that his grandchildren won't know the same America that he grew up in, partly because of the nation's bungled energy policies.
"The simple word is frustration. I'm just frustrated with what I see from an overall energy standpoint, an overall financial standpoint," he said. "We are mortgaging our grandkids' future, and I lose sleep over that"
He said his engineering background would give him a unique ability to solve problems in Washington. He lobbied successfully there in 1998, helping to change an environmental regulation on the propane industry that he said didn't make sense.
"I technically understand not just energy but all the various aspects of energy: nuclear power, solar, coal," he said.
Norris said he also is running because he has become disillusioned with how Republicans have dropped the ball.
"I'm just kind of a salt of the earth person," he said. "Washington is an aphrodisiac of power, and it will change people. Most of the people who go to Washington get changed by that power. I am adamant it won't change me."
He has released his tax returns for the last three years, a step usually taken by only presidential candidates. But Norris said, "If I'm going to be responsible for your tax dollars, you need to know how I manage my own finances. I think that's important." He said he also favors a drug testing program for candidates.
The 1st Congressional District stretches along much of the South Carolina coast, from Horry County down to much of Georgetown, Berkeley, Dorchester and Charleston counties.
BIRTHDATE: Dec. 20, 1935
FAMILY: Married, three children.
EDUCATION: Graduated from Berkeley High School; attended The Citadel and Baptist College (now Charleston Southern University).
OCCUPATION: 1st Congressional District Congressman.
PREVIOUS ELECTED OFFICE: U.S. House (2001-present); S.C. House (1985-2000); Hanahan City Council (1981-85).
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? "I just feel like we live in some tough times, and I believe my experience would be pretty significant."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST ISSUE FACING THE NATION? "I think the No. 1 issue we have facing us is solving our energy problem. We can't afford to see the price of gas continue to go up."
BIRTHDATE: May 31, 1968
FAMILY: Married, four children.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's degree from Coastal Carolina University; master's degree from University of South Carolina.
OCCUPATION: Adjunct history professor; second lieutenant in Army Reserve.
PREVIOUS ELECTED OFFICE: None.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? "Republicans have fumbled the ball, and we can have status quo or we can have someone like me who is very aggressive in communicating the Republican platform and will put us back in play."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST ISSUE FACING THE NATION? "The economy. It impacts the individual and family completely. It's the most pressing problem we have."
BIRTHDATE: Oct. 22, 1963
FAMILY: Married, two children.
EDUCATION: Graduated from the University of South Carolina with a degree in mechanical engineering.
OCCUPATION: President of Southeast Energy Partners.
PREVIOUS ELECTED OFFICE: None.
WHY ARE YOU RUNNING FOR OFFICE? "I'm concerned that my grandkids will not know the same America I grew up knowing. It's just that simple."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST ISSUE FACING THE NATION? "The biggest issue facing the nation is our economy and the long-term security of our country based on our financial debt and the cost of energy to our citizens."