If Haley picks Scott to take DeMint's place, expect wide-open race
If Tim Scott is appointed to fill South Carolina's U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jim DeMint, it would set off a wide-open contest in the 1st Congressional District early next year.
Filling a vacancy
South Carolina law calls for the governor to appoint someone in the event of a Senate vacancy. But state law says other vacancies will be filled with special elections.
Here is the timetable:
Filing opens at noon on the third Friday after the vacancy.
Filing closes at noon 10 days later (always a Monday).
A primary, if necessary, is held on the 11th Tuesday after vacancy.
A primary runoff, if necessary, is held two weeks after that, on the 13th Tuesday.
A general election is held on the 18th Tuesday after the vacancy. The winner may be sworn in as soon as the results are certified a few days after that.
Unlike with the upcoming Senate vacancy, Gov. Nikki Haley would not appoint anyone to fill an empty congressional seat should she appoint Scott or another U.S. House member.
Here are names of a few potential candidates that have been floated (by themselves or others) should the 1st Congressional District seat come open soon:
State Sen. Paul Thurmond
State Sen. Larry Grooms
State Rep. Chip Limehouse
State Rep. Peter McCoy
Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey
Former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford
Former Charleston County School Board member Larry Kobrovsky
Instead, there would be a special election held about 18 weeks after the House member stepped down, State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.
Less than 24 hours after DeMint stepped down, and with no guarantee that Scott will take his place, at least two GOP hopefuls contacted Charleston County GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett to express interest in running for Scott's 1st District seat.
Bennett said she would expect a crowded contest. “When I look out on this crazy landscape, that's kind of what I see, all kinds of scenarios,” she said.
Republican state Rep. Chip Limehouse of Charleston and Sen. Larry Grooms of Bonneau contacted Bennett, and she said Rep. Peter McCoy of James Island also may be looking at running.
Newly elected state Sen. Paul Thurmond came closest to Scott during the wide-open 2010 GOP primary, and he did not rule out another congressional run.
“I don't want to start to speculate on what's going to happen with Governor Haley. She has a lot of good people to choose from,” Thurmond said. “If she chooses Tim Scott, who I think would do an excellent job, we'll see what happens from there. I haven't really given it a lot of thought.”
However, Thurmond would face an awkward task of declaring his candidacy before he began serving in the one he was just elected to, said Gibbs Knotts, chairman of the College of Charleston Political Science Department.
“The timing is probably not great for him,” Knotts said of Thurmond. “Like anything in life, politicians have to seize the opportunity when it arises, but on the other hand not seem too ambitious.”
Charleston County Councilman Elliott Summey said he also will take a hard look at running for the seat, if Scott steps down to become a Senator.
“I've been calling supporters and friends of mine all over the Lowcountry and so far the response has been overwhelming,” Summey said.
Former S.C. first lady Jenny Sanford of Sullivan's Island said she never has seen herself as a politician or as someone with a strong desire to run for office. Anything about following up on a potential Tim Scott vacancy “is so conjecture,” she said.
But she added that she will “never really close any door completely.”
Former Charleston County School Board member Larry Kobrovsky, who ran in 2010, said Friday he will seriously consider another run for Congress if Scott becomes a senator. “I saw him firsthand when we ran together, and he articulates our message in a powerful way,” he said of Scott.
Fewer Democratic names have been floated. Charleston County Democratic Chairman Richard Hricik said, “I don't know who might be a candidate until the (Senate) nomination process is complete,” he said. “Anything else would be speculation.”
When U.S. Rep. Henry Brown stepped down two years ago, the 1st District seat was wide open, with nine GOP challengers, a Democratic primary and six candidates on the ballot in the fall.
One force that could lead to an even longer list of hopefuls in a race next year: No one currently in office will have to risk losing their seat if they run for an open congressional seat because no one will be up for re-election at the same time. State law allows candidates to seek two offices at once, but they rarely do.
As in 2010, most of the action could occur in the GOP primary.
The district, which includes parts of Berkeley, Charleston, Dorchester, Colleton and Beaufort counties, leans Republican.
Scott defeated Democratic challenger Bobbie Rose last month by almost a 2-1 ratio, and Knotts said Republican voters often turn out in relatively higher numbers during special elections.
Schuyler Kropf contributed to this report. Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.