Black S.C. GOP congressman's unlikely foe: the Census

McClatchy NewspapersDecember 18, 2010 

WASHINGTON — Rep.-elect Tim Scott hasn't even taken office, yet the North Charleston Republican knows that he's already a marked man.

It's not his political foes who are targeting him.

Scott, with Allen West of Florida the first two black Republicans elected to the U.S. House of Representatives since Reconstruction, stands in the path of a demographic tidal wave that likely will engulf him in the coming months.

Thanks to rapid population growth in four counties in his 1st Congressional District — Dorchester, Horry, Berkeley and Charleston — an expected new U.S. House seat for South Carolina as a result of the 2010 Census could come largely at Scott's expense.

"The most likely scenario is that I will be a new congressman (after redistricting) once again for nearly a third of my district," Scott told McClatchy on Saturday.

An analysis by McClatchy matches Scott's own: A redrawn congressional map would likely remove from his district Horry County — a fast-growing area where he drew more than two-thirds of the vote last month.

"These are the citizens who've given me the most incredible opportunity I could have dreamed of," Scott said. "To pick (the district) apart immediately after being elected, that's tough. I like serving people. To have people who've said 'yes' to me serving them taken out of my hands is difficult."

Scott, though, would welcome the change because a seventh U.S. House district would likely tilt Republican — and thus could produce a new GOP congressman.

That might pit Scott's conservative ideological interests against his personal and political needs: A more Republican congressional delegation vs. a weaker district for himself.

"To stand in the way of strengthening our philosophical hold on this state would be selfish," said Scott, who will replace the retiring Rep. Henry Brown. "It might serve me well, but it would not serve our state well."

The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to announce Tuesday that South Carolina is among eight states — based in the Sun Belt and out West — that will gain a congressional seat thanks to their population growth since 2000.

If that happens, it will likely be a year before the General Assembly and Gov.-elect Nikki Haley determine the contours of the seventh House district in a redrawn political map that will change every congressional district.

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, who will be the state delegation's only Democrat in the new session of Congress that starts next month, agrees that a seventh U.S. House seat would likely be a Republican one based along the coast.

"Since the population gains are most prevalent on the coast and the General Assembly is heavily Republican, I fully expect the additional seat to be a coastal district that leans Republican," Clyburn said.

"I am hopeful we can get redistricting done expeditiously and will be glad to be of whatever assistance I can," he said.

Rep.-elect Jeff Duncan, a Laurens Republican and state representative who will succeed U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett in Congress, welcomes the prospect of adding a lawmaker from his party.

"I'm excited about the possibility of having another colleague up here in the delegation to help South Carolina fight for the things we believe in," Duncan said.

Scott, a state representative who previously chaired the Charleston County Council, wouldn't be the only lawmaker to see a big change in his district's makeup and boundaries.

Rep.-elect Mick Mulvaney's 5th Congressional District would likely undergo significant change because of rapid population growth in York, Lancaster and Kershaw counties.

"Regardless of where the new (seventh) seat is centered, my district must get smaller," Mulvaney said. "Everybody's district is going to be impacted."

Mulvaney, though, isn't as certain as many others that South Carolina will gain a congressional seat.

The state's population also grew substantially in the 1990s, leading to expectations that it would get a seventh seat a decade ago as a result of the 2000 Census.

Instead, South Carolina barely lost out to its neighbors, watching Georgia pick up two seats and North Carolina gain one.

This time, Georgia is expected to get yet another congressional post, along with South Carolina, Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and Washington.

Texas could be the biggest winner with its projected three new House seats.

States projected to lose seats are Ohio — which could cede two — New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Iowa and Louisiana.

Louisiana's loss would be largely due to the exodus of residents driven from the state by the August 2005 devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

If the national changes in congressional representation match projections, it will be a boon for the Republican Party.

The eight states expected to gain U.S. House seats are mainly Republican, with GOP lawmakers currently holding a 44-24 edge over Democrats.

The nine states predicted to lose congressional seats are predominantly Democratic, with the party's now enjoying a 45-28 advantage over Republican representatives.

Mulvaney, an Indian Land Republican and state senator, knows that counting the number of Americans each decade is somewhat imprecise, with the use of complex formulas that can adjust upward the populations of historically undercounted populations.

If two states are on the bubble, Mulvaney thinks the administration of President Barack Obama might manipulate the final figures in order to give a Democratic state an extra seat over Republican-dominated South Carolina.

"If it comes down to us versus Washington state, I can see a political motivation in the administration trying to steer it away from South Carolina," Mulvaney said. "The political realist in me says that if there's a chance for the numbers to work against us, the administration might take that opportunity."

S.C. Rep. Jim Harrison will play a big role in redrawing the state's congressional map as chairman of the state House Judiciary Committee.

Harrison, a Columbia Republican who has helped recast South Carolina's congressional map once before and helped redraw the General Assembly districts twice, doesn't share Mulvaney's suspicion of possible political shenanigans in Washington.

"It's not an exact science," Harrison said. "There is the ability for those numbers to be manipulated, but I don't believe that happens. I don't have any reason to think that the process could be manipulated so that another state would get the (new) seat as opposed to South Carolina."

South Carolina has had six U.S. House representatives since 1930, when a population decline the previous decade cost it the seventh seat the state had held before then.

Whether or not South Carolina gains a congressional seat, the statewide map will have to be changed to reflect population shifts over the last decade.

Harrison knows that redrawing the congressional map is difficult enough when the number of seats remains the same.

When a seat is added, a difficult task becomes vexing: U.S. House members can make their desires and views known to state legislators, but the ultimate power lies in the General Assembly — and with Haley, who can accept or veto the plan that eventually emerges.

"The governor-elect believes who we send to represent us in Columbia and Washington is critically important," said Rob Godfrey, a Haley spokesman. "She'll be paying very close attention as the redistricting process moves through the General Assembly."

Harrison and S.C. Sen. Glenn McConnell, a Charleston Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, will draw congressional maps that will have to be fused into a single scheme, passed by the legislature and sent to Haley.

Redrawing the congressional map is even more complicated in South Carolina than in most other states. Having experienced past racial discrimination at the polls, it is subject to provisions of the Voting Rights Act, so the U.S. Justice Department must approve newly crafted districts.

"At the end of the day, drawing lines is a very brutal process," said Katon Dawson, former head of the state Republican Party. "And there are laws. You can't just pull a crayon out and do what you want to do. It's a thankless job."

Rep.-elect Trey Gowdy, a Spartanburg Republican who defeated incumbent GOP Rep. Bob Inglis in the party's June primary runoff, clerked for U.S. District Judge Ross Anderson in 1992.

Anderson and two other federal judges were ordered to redraw South Carolina's congressional map that year, following the 1990 census, after the Justice Department rejected the map created by the General Assembly.

Gowdy hopes the legislature and Haley can avoid a similar outcome this time.

"The goal is for the General Assembly to do it and for the governor to sign off on it," he said. "To a certain extent, it represents a failure if you have the federal judiciary drawing the political subdivisions of a state."

By the numbers

The U.S. Census Bureau is expected to announce Tuesday that population gains documented in the 2010 census have produced a seventh U.S. House seat for South Carolina.

The new seat would likely be drawn in parts of the state that have experienced the largest population gains in the last decade.

Based on the Census Bureau's 2009 county population estimates, fast-growing counties entirely or largely in these three districts mean they would face the most significant change when the General Assembly redraws South Carolina's congress map to add a seat.

1st Congressional District

Rep.-elect Tim Scott, North Charleston Republican

County...............Population increase, 2000-09

Dorchester...............35.4 percent

Horry....................34.2 percent

Berkeley...............21.7 percent

Charleston...............14.6 percent

5th Congressional District

Rep.-elect Mick Mulvaney, Indian Land Republican

County...............Population increase, 2000-09

York....................37.9 percent

Lancaster...............26.8 percent

Kershaw...............14 percent

2nd Congressional District

Rep. Joe Wilson, Lexington Republican

County...............Population increase, 2000-09

Beaufort...............28.3 percent

Lexington...............18.3 percent

Richland...............16 percent

McClatchy Newspapers 2010

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