WASHINGTON – Voters in the conservative South Carolina Upstate threatened to oust Rep. Bob Inglis from office Tuesday in a sign of anti-Washington anger roiling the country.
Spartanburg County, S.C., prosecutor Trey Gowdy built a large early lead and finished substantially ahead of Inglis, a former real estate lawyer in his sixth U.S. House term, with S.C. Sen. David Thomas running a distant third in the Republican primary of the 4th Congressional District.
Gowdy, in his first congressional race, had accused Inglis of becoming too moderate for his heavily Republican 1st Congressional District.
Gowdy and Inglis will face off in a June 22 runoff. If Gowdy defeats Inglis, South Carolina in all probability would have three new U.S. House members next January for the first time since 1975.
In the mainly coastal 1st Congressional District, S.C. Rep. Tim Scott built substantial leads over scions of two political legends, defeating Carroll Campbell III and Paul Thurmond in the GOP primary. Incumbent Rep. Henry Brown is retiring.
Scott’s upset increases the likelihood that South Carolina will send the first black Republican congressman to Washington since the post-Civil War Reconstruction Era.
Scott, a former Charleston County Council member, was headed toward a June 22 runoff against one of four closely bunched other Republican primary candidates, among them Campbell and Thurmond.
Though it has trended Democratic in recent years, the 1st District remains mainly Republican. Whoever wins the GOP runoff will be favored in the Nov. 2 general election over Robert Brown, who won the Democratic primary over three candidates who raised little money and barely campaigned.
In the race for the state’s second open congressional seat, anti-abortion activist Richard Cash and S.C. Rep. Jeff Duncan of Clinton were running neck and neck, holding narrow leads over two other Republican primary candidates, with the top two slated for a runoff.
The winner of that runoff will face Democrat Jane Dyer in November for the right to succeed Rep. Gresham Barrett, who squeezed into a Republican gubernatorial runoff against S.C. Rep. Nikki Haley of Lexington, to represent the 3rd Congressional District.
The 5th Congressional District, represented by Democratic Rep. John Spratt of Rock Hill, S.C., was the only district that had no primary election in either party.
Sen. Jim DeMint, a Greenville, S.C., Republican seeking election to his second term, romped to victory over Charleston attorney Susan Gaddy in the U.S. Senate GOP primary.
“Folks across our state are standing up and sending a message to Washington to stop the wasteful spending and debt that are leading America down a path of bankruptcy and decline,” DeMint said.
House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn, a Columbia, S.C., Democrat, also scored an easy victory in defeating Gregory Brown, a Columbia telecommunications businessman, in the 6th Congressional District primary.
“I am working hard to improve the quality of life in this district, and we have had some significant success,” Clyburn said. “But much remains to be done, and I hope to continue working with President Barack Obama, the Democrats in Congress and willing Republicans to move our great country in a new direction.”
In the heavily Democratic district, Jim Pratt was running slightly ahead of Nancy Harrelson in the Republican primary, with the two facing a possible June 22 runoff for the right to be steamrolled by Clyburn.
Rep. Joe Wilson, a Lexington Republican overwhelmingly defeated perennial candidate Phil Black in the GOP primary for the 2nd Congressional District.
Wilson will square off in November against challenger Rob Miller, a Beaufort, S.C., Democrat, in one of the country’s most closely watched and well-funded races.
The rematch of their 2004 contest, when Wilson defeated Miller by a 54-46 percent margin, gained national interest after Wilson yelled “You lie!” at Obama last September as he addressed a joint session of Congress.
In a sign of increased voter engagement this year, many precincts in South Carolina’s Richland and Lexington counties reported big increases in Republican turnout compared with the 2008 primary.
“I am honored to have earned support from so many folks who don’t want more of the same big-government takeovers from Washington liberals,” Wilson said.
Miller, a former Marine Corps captain who served in Iraq, had no primary opposition.
“In November, voters will have a clear choice between my vision of growing small businesses, creating jobs on Main Street and strengthening the middle class versus Joe Wilson’s failed record of looking out for himself and siding with the big CEOs and the Washington special interests,” Miller said.