Names arise for 7th District

MYRTLE BEACH -- The map for South Carolina's new 7th Congressional District has not yet received final approval but already names of possible candidates are circulating.

The new district, anchored in Republican Horry County in the northeastern corner of the state, was approved by lawmakers in Columbia this week. Gov. Nikki Haley has set a bill signing in Myrtle Beach on Monday. South Carolina gained a seat in Congress as a result of population growth reflected in the recent census.

Still, legal challenges to the map are expected and the state's new congressional alignment must also pass review by the U.S. Justice Department.

"There is a higher threshold for a court to overturn what the elected representatives of the state did," State Rep. Thad Viers of Myrtle Beach told The Sun News. "If the courts do go in and tweak it, it will be a tweak, not be a substantive change."

The district reaches into the state's Pee Dee region and includes Georgetown County to the south. About 28 percent of the district is comprised of blacks of voting age.

Viers is one name mentioned as a possible candidate in the predominantly Republican district. "Stay tuned," he said.

State Rep. Alan Clemmons, who headed the state House's redistricting committee, has also been mentioned.

"It's too early for me to be focusing on," Clemmons said. "We're not through with the hurdles yet."

Janet Spencer, a 63-year-old retired Myrtle Beach banker, said she wasn't concerned about Clemmons' role in drawing the district because the most important thing was centering it in Horry County.

"I'm putting the who-is-gonna-run-for-that on the back burner for right now," she said.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Harrison said Clemmons shouldn't be criticized for helping draw the map.

"No matter what you draw, if a House member is interested in running for Congress, those allegations are going to be made," said Harrison, a Columbia Republican, who added he was more involved in the plan than Clemmons.

"He supports it but that's not a Clemmons plan; that's a Harrison plan," Harrison said.

Mande Wilkes, who has run for the state S.C. House District 106 seat, says she will run provided the district gets final approval without too many changes. And Georgetown County businessman Jim Mader has told party officials he is also considering a run for Congress.

William Goff, a former Horry County Democratic Party chairman, said there are three potentially strong candidates from his party, but would not say who they were. South Carolina currently has five Republicans and one Democrat in its congressional delegation.

Horry County GOP chairman Johnnie Bellamy likes that the new district puts Horry County back with the Pee Dee where it has been in the past.

The plan keeps Georgetown County in a single district and county GOP chairman Jim Jerow likes the fact that Georgetown is with Myrtle Beach.

"From the beginning we all felt that Georgetown had more in commonality with Horry County than Charleston," he said.