Ar­ring­ton points fin­ger at San­ford for stun­ning loss to Cun­ning­ham

The Island Packet - - Front Page - BY BRIS­TOW MARCHANT AND AVERY G. WILKS bmarchant@thes­tate.com aw­ilks@thes­tate.com

Repub­li­can con­gres­sional can­di­date Katie Ar­ring­ton is blam­ing her de­feated GOP pri­mary op­po­nent, U.S. Rep. Mark San­ford, for her stun­ning loss to Demo­crat Joe Cun­ning­ham on Tues­day in South Carolina’s coastal 1st Dis­trict.

Mean­while, South Carolina Democrats on Wed­nes­day were sa­vor­ing a stun­ning up­set, as they re­claimed a U.S. House seat they have not held for al­most 40 years.

Ar­ring­ton pointed the fin­ger at San­ford in a Wed­nes­day press con­fer­ence in Charleston, ar­gu­ing his lack of sup­port for her af­ter their June pri­mary bat­tle helped seal her nar­row – 1.4-per­cent­age point – loss to Cun­ning­ham.

“We lost be­cause Mark San­ford could not un­der­stand this was about the con­ser­va­tive move­ment, and not him,”

Ar­ring­ton said, ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports.

San­ford point­edly de­clined to en­dorse Ar­ring­ton af­ter their bruis­ing pri­mary fight ended his time in Congress – first for three terms in the ’90s and, then, af­ter two terms as gov­er­nor, since 2013 – rep­re­sent­ing the 1st Dis­trict.

Af­ter his pri­mary de­feat, San­ford ac­cused Ar­ring­ton of ly­ing about her stance on off­shore drilling. That topic – sen­si­tive along the coast – cost Ar­ring­ton some GOP sup­port. She had cam­paigned against San­ford say­ing he had not been sup­port­ive enough of Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, in­clud­ing his plans to lift a ban on drilling off the At­lantic coast. Later, Ar­ring­ton said she, too, op­posed off­shore drilling.

Speak­ing to The As­so­ci­ated Press on Wed­nes­day, San­ford cred­ited the dis­trict’s “strong en­vi­ron­men­tal ethos” for un­der­min­ing Ar­ring­ton.

“It’s nat­u­ral to want to blame some­one or some­thing for any loss in life,” San­ford said, adding, “It wasn’t by ac­ci­dent I was speak­ing out against the pres­i­dent prior to the pri­mary be­cause it’s what I was hear­ing from the vot­ers.

“Of all the dis­tricts out there … sim­ple lit­mus-test ad­her­ence to the pres­i­dent is not some­thing the peo­ple value.”

Repub­li­can San­ford also tweeted his con­grat­u­la­tions to Demo­crat Cun­ning­ham: “Con­grats. … My team and I will be run­ning hard to the fin­ish line to en­sure smooth tran­si­tion.”

‘SENT A MES­SAGE’

Cun­ning­ham’s win was the shin­ing high­light of Tues­day’s midterm elec­tion for South Carolina Democrats.

His win – the first time a Demo­crat has been elected from the 1st Dis­trict since 1980 – was a stun­ning up­set, flip­ping to Demo­cratic blue from GOP red a dis­trict that Trump won with 53.3 per­cent of the vote just two years ago.

The 36-year-old Charleston at­tor­ney’s vic­tory – by 4,036 votes out of 268,175 cast – gives South Carolina two Democrats in Congress for the first time since for­mer House Bud­get Com­mit­tee Chair­man John Spratt, D-York, lost his 5th Dis­trict re-elec­tion bid in 2010. Cun­ning­ham will join U.S. Rep. Jim Cly­burn of Columbia.

Cun­ning­ham proved to be one of the strong­est can­di­dates fielded by South Carolina Democrats in years.

He cam­paigned as a mod­er­ate who would work across party lines and keep his pol­i­tics civil. He painted Ar­ring­ton – a 47-year-old, one-term S.C. House mem­ber – as a par­ti­san who would only fur­ther the trib­al­ism in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., that frus­trates many vot­ers.

“Our mes­sage is res­onat­ing with folks here in the dis­trict,” Cun­ning­ham told The (Columbia) State on Tues­day. “Putting peo­ple over pol­i­tics and putting Low­coun­try over party. It sends the mes­sage that folks are tired of the di­vi­sive­ness, the neg­a­tive rhetoric that’s com­ing out of D.C., that’s com­ing from the other side.”

Later, af­ter he was de­clared the vic­tor about 2 a.m. Wed­nes­day, Cun­ning­ham said, “To­day we sent a mes­sage. We ran against di­vi­sive, hate­ful rhetoric. We ran a cam­paign of is­sues.”

Cun­ning­ham’s mo­men­tum dur­ing the cam­paign saw him added to the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee’s “Red-to-Blue” pro­gram – giv­ing him ac­cess to na­tional money and re­sources, in­clud­ing a pro­gram fo­cused on turn­ing out black vot­ers.

“It’s been a re­ally well­run cam­paign by Cun­ning­ham,” said Col­lege of Charleston po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor Gibbs Knotts. “He’s run­ning it in a per­fect year. His mes­sage of bring­ing peo­ple to­gether is par­tic­u­larly good in this era of Don­ald Trump and po­lar­iza­tion.”

Ar­ring­ton tried to counter Cun­ning­ham’s rise by na­tion­al­iz­ing the race, ty­ing her op­po­nent to Democrats dis­liked by South Carolina Repub­li­cans, in­clud­ing U.S. House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi and U.S. Rep. Max­ine Wa­ters, both Cal­i­for­nia Democrats.

“Will you let Nancy Pelosi claim vic­tory to im­ple­ment her ‘San Fran­cisco val­ues’ in the Low­coun­try by vot­ing for my op­po­nent?” Ar­ring­ton tweeted Tues­day morn­ing.

How­ever, Cun­ning­ham al­ready had pledged not to vote for Pelosi for speaker if Democrats re­gained con­trol of the House, as they did Tues­day.

FAILED GOP RES­CUE

As pun­dits be­gan hedg­ing their pre­dic­tions that the 1st Dis­trict would stay red, na­tional Repub­li­cans tried to res­cue Ar­ring­ton, who – if elected – would have been South Carolina’s first con­gress­woman in 25 years.

The Na­tional Repub­li­can Cam­paign Com­mit­tee spent more than $87,000 on ads to boost Ar­ring­ton’s chances.

High-pro­file Repub­li­cans also cam­paigned for Ar­ring­ton. Sec­ond lady Karen Pence cam­paigned with her Satur­day in Charleston, and Don­ald Trump Jr. held a rally Mon­day in Hil­ton Head.

Ar­ring­ton won four of the five coun­ties in the 1st Dis­trict.

But she won her home county, Dorch­ester, by only 2,200 votes, tak­ing 52 per­cent of the bal­lots.

She lost Charleston County – Cun­ning­ham’s home county, and San­ford’s – by 17,000 votes.

MIC SMITH AP

Katie Ar­ring­ton, Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for the 1st Con­gres­sional Dis­trict, con­cedes the race to Demo­crat Joe Cun­ning­ham dur­ing her Wed­nes­day news con­fer­ence in Mount Pleas­ant. Democrats re­claimed a U.S. House seat they have not held for al­most 40 years.

Joe Cun­ning­ham

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