COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina voters will determine Tuesday who will succeed Mick Mulvaney in Congress, a race that's garnered far less national scrutiny than another special election in Georgia's 6th District.
Georgia's race, the most expensive U.S. House contest to date, is seen as an early test for the GOP and President Donald Trump since his win over Democrat Hillary Clinton. In South Carolina's 5th, held solidly by Mulvaney since his 2010 victory, the GOP ticket defeated Clinton by more than 18 percent in November, giving Republicans the confidence they say will keep the seat in Republican hands.
A Republican, real estate developer Ralph Norman, is confronting Democrat Archie Parnell for Mulvaney's seat. National surrogates have stumped for both. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint campaigned with Norman, while national Democratic Chairman Tom Perez came to town for Parnell.
Democrats had held the South Carolina seat for more than a century until Mulvaney rode a tea party wave to defeat longtime incumbent John Spratt in 2010. Despite a variety of challengers since, he held the seat until his confirmation earlier this year as White House budget director.
As they have in other special election contests across the country this year, Democrats recruited a field of candidates to make a play for the GOP-held seat. Norman emerged from a GOP runoff with only a 200-vote victory, a slim margin on which Democrats want to capitalize, saying it belies a deep GOP divide.
But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has only plunked $275,000 into the South Carolina race, compared to a $5 million investment in the special election in Georgia's 6th District. That's a signal of how much of a chance the party gauges it has to pick up the Georgia seat, which has been in GOP hands since Newt Gingrich's 1978 victory.
Norman, a former state lawmaker who challenged Spratt for the 5th District seat in 2006 and aligns himself with Trump, said during a recent candidate forum that the November presidential election results would work in his favor in his own race.
"Trump is still very popular in our area," Norman said. "His first big decision in putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court excited the people we're coming into contact with. He proved his mettle."
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