Bob Inglis Ousted; Black South Carolina Republican Wins Runoff

Associated Press + More

GREENVILLE, S.C.  — Falling on tough political times thanks to moves that riled his constituents and an anti-incumbent sentiment sweeping the nation, six-term South Carolina incumbent Republican Bob Inglis has been booted from office in a series of congressional primary runoff elections.

And along the coast, voters chose the state's lone black Republican legislator over the son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond.

In his concession speech Tuesday night, Inglis said he was run out of office by the most partisan members of the Republican Party but said he wouldn't change any of the votes that angered some in the ultraconservative 4th District that includes Greenville and Spartanburg.

"I knew at the time I could lose the seat over it," Inglis said, adding he now has to find a job as a commercial real estate lawyer. "I think he is a capable fellow and will do a fine job."

Inglis was trounced by Trey Gowdy, the popular chief prosecutor for Spartanburg and Cherokee counties who won 71 percent of Tuesday's vote.

Inglis has been a conservative favorite for much of his 12 years in Congress. First elected in 1992, he left after six years to honor a term-limit pledge. He ran again in 2004 and again will be going home after three terms, a departure that political scientist Scott Huffmon said may be attributed to the tea party's success in Inglis' northern district.

"He made his bread and butter as a conservative candidate," Huffmon said. "Within his district, the tea party activists are so vocal, it leaves him looking a little too 'liberal' in his district."

Gowdy played off that desire for change, saying that if experience were the only thing that mattered, no challenger would ever win.

"If people want to change Washington, we can't do that by sending the same folks back up there," Gowdy said.

That message seemed to resonate with voters hewing to Gowdy's calls to shake up the state's congressional delegation.

"I think there needs to be a change in Washington," said Everett Fuller, a 56-year-old physician from Greenville. "We're sick of the way this country is being run."

But Inglis still had support from some conservatives, like Paul Aiesi, a 34-year-old commercial real estate investment manager from Greenville.

"Nobody can argue with his conservative credentials," Aiesi said. "I think he got a bad rap on the TARP vote. It was probably the right vote even though it was not politically popular."

Gowdy will face Democrat Paul Corden of Spartanburg in November.

Along the coast, Tim Scott — the first black GOP South Carolina state lawmaker in more than a century — defeated attorney and Charleston County councilman Paul Thurmond in Scott's bid to become the state's first black Republican congressman since the 1800s. Both men had discounted the historic implications of their campaigns to replace retiring Rep. Henry Brown, preferring instead to focus on criticism of federal spending.

"This race is about American exceptionalism, the fact that it's alive and it's well," Scott told a crowd gathered his campaign party. "The backbone of our future is not the politicians. ... It's the people who go to work every single day and do their best and do the things that are necessary so our country is strong."

Scott faces Democrat Ben Frasier in November, but the district has been in GOP hands for three decades. Scott could become the first black Republican in Congress since Oklahoma's J.C. Watts retired in 2003. Some national Republicans, including former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, have endorsed him.

Scott's dozen years on Charleston County Council and his term in the state House were enough to get Robert Shuler's vote.

"He had a record and Thurmond didn't have anything," said Shuler, a 61-year-old retired defense department engineer from Mount Pleasant. "You've got to have a background — we've got a president of the United States right now who is only fit to be a dog catcher."

Along the state's western line in the 3rd District, a state lawmaker edged out a political unknown who owns a fleet of ice cream trucks to replace U.S. Rep. Gresham Barrett, who lost his runoff for the governor's nomination.