Thursday, July 30, 2009

A little history about the Third Congressional District

South Carolina’s Third Congressional District is a difficult political beast. Stretching down the Savannah River Valley from Oconee County to Aiken County along the South Carolina state border with Georgia, the Third Congressional District is one in which no one major media market dominates. Further, the culture is different throughout the district. The people of Oconee County are different in many ways than the people in Edgefield and Aiken counties at the other end of the Third District. The Third District has thus proven to be one in which someone who has mastered retail politics fares better than someone who relies on major media politics.

Indeed, it has been 61 years since someone won the Congressional seat who did not have previous experience in the South Carolina General Assembly. In 1948, James D. Hare won election to the US Congress, only be defeated in 1950 by William Jennings Bryan Dorn, who had held the seat before choosing to run for the United States Senate in 1948. Dorn had previously served in the South Carolina General Assembly before his election to Congress.

Dorn held the Third Congressional District Congressional seat until 1974, when he was replaced by then SC State House member Butler Derrick. Butler Derrick served until 1994, when he was replaced by then SC State House member Lindsey Graham, who served until 2002, when he was replaced by then SC State House member Gresham Barrett. It would appear that that the candidates for the seat in 2010 with the retail political experience of winning and holding a seat in the General Assembly will have the advantage.

However, the set of political skills needed to win and hold on the Third Congressional District has not translated well to statewide politics historically. Senator Lindsey Graham was the first Third District Congressional Representative to move to statewide office in 80 years. William Jennings Bryan Dorn, who was a political legend in his time, lost three times at statewide office, including losses for Governor in 1974 and 1978. John C. Taylor held the Congressional seat, and was one of the local legends of the Anderson area in his time, however he went down to defeat to Strom Thurmond in 1946 in the Governor’s race.

Indeed, not since Reconstruction, has a Congressman from the Third Congressional District went on to win a South Carolina Constitutional office. Taylor is the only holder of the seat to go on to any state office in relatively recent history. As a former Congressman, Taylor was elected to the South Carolina State Senate in the 1950s.
If history is any judge of the future, then one of the members of the General Assembly running for the Third Congressional seat will be elected and Congressman Gresham Barrett has an uphill battle to be elected Governor. The upside is that if Congressman Barrett is elected Governor, he will make history.


  1. AnonymousJuly 30, 2009

    What do you have against Gresham Barrett?

  2. Good analysis and history.

    The Fifth District has the same kind of history of being a dead-end for the political careers of those who have represented it.

    By contrast, in recent years, two 4th District reps have moved up - Carroll Campbell and Jim DeMint,

    For the 1st District, two gave up their seats and fell short - Tommy Harnett who left his seat and got 49% for Lt. Gov in 1986 and Arthur Ravenel, who lost the GOP run-off for Gov in 1994.

    Of course Sanford gave up his seat and two years later won the Governor's race, so I'm not sure if that counts.