South Carolina: Mulvaney vacancy draws 15 hopefuls

South Carolina: Mulvaney vacancy draws 15 hopefuls

By Hastings Wyman –

Seven Republicans have filed to run for the 5th District congressional seat left vacant when Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) resigned to become director of President Trump’s Office of Management and Budget. Three Democrats have also filed in this heavily Republican district. In addition, three Libertarians are running, and one each from the American, Constitution and Green Parties. The primaries will be held on May 2, with runoffs, if needed, on May 16. The General Election is set for June 20.

The Republican field includes four candidates from York County, the district’s most populous county; two from Kershaw County and one from Newberry County.

The York County candidates are:

Tommy Pope of York is the former speaker pro tempore of the state House of Representatives, a post he resigned to make the run for Congress. Pope, 54, originally gained notice in 1994 when, as a circuit solicitor, he successfully prosecuted Susan Smith for the murder of her two young sons. He had previously announced he would run for governor in 2018, but has since said that prospect is “on hold.”

Ralph Norman of Rock Hill is a native of the county and a successful real estate developer. He resigned from the state House of Representatives in February to run for Congress. He ran for this seat once before in 2004, losing to Democratic incumbent John Spratt.

Ray Craig of Lake Wylie is making his second bid for Congress. In 2016, he challenged Mulvaney in the Republican Primary, contending that Mulvaney was “too right of center, and I’m just right of center.” Among issues he cited were Mulvaney’s support of a potential government shutdown in 2015 and his opposition to federal funding for Planned Parenthood. He garnered 22% to Mulvaney’s 78%; if he held that support, 22% could push him into the runoff, though his moderate views might not work in a runoff. A Clemson graduate, he spent a number of years doing mission work in India, Uganda and elsewhere, then returned to York County in 2002.

Kris Wampler, 33, of Indian Land practices family law in Charlotte, across the state line from York County, although he has worked mostly in South Carolina, where he lives. He was a conservative activist in college, helping found pro-life and libertarian groups at the traditionally liberal University of North Carolina.

From Kershaw County:

Sheri Few of Lugoff has been an active statewide opponent of Common Core educational standards. In 2014, she ran for state superintendant of education, where she carried the 5th District in a nine-candidate primary, but lost statewide. In her announcement, Few said,

“We need to stop federal overreach, whether it is Common Core, ‘green’ energy mandates or micromanagement in everything from health care to banking.”

Tom Mulliken of Camden is an attorney and commander of the South Carolina State Guard, a volunteer group that provides medical, legal and other services in the wake of disasters in the state. He also has an adventurous background, having climbed five of the world’s seven highest mountains. In his announcement, Mulliken said, “I support President Trump’s focus on strengthening America and want to be part of his team in Congress.”

Newberry County:

Chad Connelly of Prosperity in Newberry County is a past state chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party; he resigned in his second term when National GOP Chairman Reince Preibus appointed him as the party’s first National Director of Faith Engagement, a position that led him to visit with some 80,000 clergy in 40 states. He also has been a frequent speaker at Tea Party events. He is a civil engineer by education (Clemson), and had a successful small business in this field.

In a poll taken by Remington Research Group in January when only three of the current GOP field had announced, Pope led with 25%, followed by Connelly and Norman with 9% each. State Rep. Gary Simrill, who did not enter the race but was included in the poll, drew 6%; 52% were undecided.

The district is heavily Republican. Five of its seven counties went for Trump and Democrat Fran Person, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden, lost to Mulvaney by 20 points last fall. However, three Democrats have announced.

Archie Parnell, a retired Goldman Sachs executive who lives in Sumter County, was the first Democrat to announce. Parnell, 66, went to high school in Sumter and graduated from the University of South Carolina and its law school. His professional resume includes stints with the US Department of Justice, the US House Ways and Means Committee, ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs. His work took him to three continents.

Alex Frank, 26, is a veteran and a mother of two with a bachelor’s degree in law and legal process. Her husband is on active duty with the Marines. She has described herself as pro-education, pro-healthcare, pro-equal rights and pro-veterans. She is bi-racial. She lives in Rock Hill.

Les Murphy lives in Indian Land, in York County. A Kentucky native, he moved to the district in 2003. He founded Carolina Veterans Commission, a faith-based 501c (3). He is a Human Resources Manager with Lowes Home Improvement in Indian Land.

Says Democratic National Committeeman H. Boyd Brown, who lives in Fairfield County in the 5th District, Parnell “is a heavy favorite” for the nomination. As for the Democrats ultimate prospects, Brown says, “It’s obviously an uphill climb, but we’ve seen uphill battles in the past. It just depends on who gets their message out the best. Trump has turned everything on its head. We’ll just have to see what happens.”

In addition to the candidates from the major parties, five other candidates are running. From the Libertarian Party, Victor Kocher and N. Cooper are running. Bill Bledsoe has filed both as a Libertarian and for the Constitution Party. Josh Thornton is running for the American Party, a moderate good government group, and David Kulma is running as the Green Party nominee. None appear to have significant prospects of winning.