State Rep. Tim Scott, a conservative African-American lawmaker with the weight of the national GOP behind him, easily defeated the youngest son of late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond Tuesday in a GOP runoff race that turned conventional political wisdom on its head.
Who would have thought that South Carolina Republicans, with their deep love of Thurmond, would turn their back on Paul Thurmond, a Charleston County Council member and GOP establishment figure, in favor of nominating Scott to become the nation's only black Republican congressman?
On Facebook, dozens of ecstatic supporters congratulated Scott.
"Please get in there and be CONSERVATIVE and Patriotic for us!" wrote Koreann Harris. "Am especially proud tonight to be a Republican and a South Carolinian in the 1st district!" wrote Shannon Sheehan.
Scott and Thurmond, who served together on Charleston County Council before Scott was elected to the S.C. House, emerged out of a nine-candidate primary June 8 aligned on trademark GOP issues including the economy and health care.
Scott finished first in that primary, well ahead of Thurmond, in a primary that saw another prominent political heir — Carroll Campbell III, son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell — finish third in the race to represent the 1st District, which stretches from Charleston to Myrtle Beach. The seat was left vacant by the retirement of GOP U.S. Rep. Henry Brown.
The national GOP promoted Scott, 44, an insurance executive and protege of Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, as the candidate to back. Scott was endorsed by former Govs. Sarah Palin of Alaska and Mike Huckabee of Arkansas. The anti-tax Club for Growth also weighed in, donating $300,000 to Scott's campaign.
Political analysts say Scott will have only nominal Democratic opposition in November from perennial candidate Ben Frasier and could easily become the successor to retired U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts, the only other black Republican to serve in the modern Congress.
If Scott wins in November, he would become the first black Republican congressman to represent South Carolina in Congress in more than a century, since George Washington Murray of Sumter stepped down after two terms in 1897, USC law professor Lewis Burke said Tuesday.
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