Bluffton man takes early aim at Rep. Cun­ning­ham’s seat

The Island Packet - - Local - BY WADE LIV­INGSTON wliv­[email protected]­land­

U.S. Rep. Joe Cun­ning­ham (D-S.C.), fresh off con­gres­sional ori­en­ta­tion, al­ready has a prospec­tive chal­lenger in 2020, as a Bluffton man has filed to run for South Carolina’s 1st Dis­trict.

Repub­li­can Mike Covert filed with the Fed­eral Elec­tion Com­mis­sion on Thurs­day, ac­cord­ing to the agency’s web­site, but he says he’s not fo­cused on Cun­ning­ham at the mo­ment, want­ing to se­cure his party’s nom­i­na­tion be­fore chal­leng­ing the first Demo­crat to rep­re­sent the dis­trict in al­most four decades.

“I wish (Cun­ning­ham) well while he’s there,” Covert said Fri­day morn­ing. “But I wouldn’t get too com­fort­able with the of­fice, be­cause he’s go­ing to be com­ing back home.”

It’s no se­cret Repub­li­cans hope to re­claim the seat that data from the S.C. Elec­tion Com­mis­sion show Cun­ning­ham, of Charleston, won by less than 4,000 votes — a lit­tle over one per­cent­age point.

But Covert’s fil­ing — the first among any would-be Repub­li­can chal­lengers, ac­cord­ing to the FEC — is, in the can­di­date’s words, a “very se­ri­ous” move.

“In terms of ex­pe­di­ency, I want peo­ple to know that I’m very se­ri­ous,” Covert said. “My sup­port­ers, I want them to know I’m very se­ri­ous. It’s not Joe Cun­ning­ham; it’s the (Repub­li­can) pri­mary.”

Covert, a cur­rent Beau­fort County coun­cil­man rep­re­sent­ing Bluffton, has had his eye on higher of­fice for some­time now.

He and his team ini­tially thought of chal­leng­ing U.S. Sen. Lindsey Gra­ham (R-S.C.), but Covert said the long­time se­na­tor is, right now, “on an in­cred­i­ble high” and that his po­si­tions in re­cent months have been grounded in “good, con­ser­va­tive ideas.”

So, Covert and team switched their fo­cus to Dis­trict 1 after Cun­ning­ham’s nar­row win.

“(W)hen the ... dis­trict flipped to a Demo­cratic can­di­date for the first time in 40 years, we knew right away, with­out hes­i­ta­tion, that our next ad­ven­ture would be to take that seat back,” Covert said.

Covert likes his chances be­cause he fash­ions him­self as a non­tra­di­tional can­di­date who can re­late to ev­ery­day peo­ple.

“I said this when I ran for coun­cil and it still rings true to­day,” Covert said. “I am un­like any reg­u­lar, nor­mal politi­cian be­cause I am not a reg­u­lar, nor­mal politi­cian.”

He said Wash­ing­ton was packed with tra­di­tional politi­cians — he specif­i­cally cited “lawyers,” Cun­ning­ham’s pro­fes­sion — and that the coun­try’s

framers never in­tended that.

In terms of plat­form, his big­gest is­sue is the size (too big) and reach (too much) of the fed­eral govern­ment.

Covert on Fri­day said he would elim­i­nate the U.S. Dept. of Education and U.S. Dept. of Agri­cul­ture to curb fed­eral spend­ing and limit na­tional over­sight into state, county and mu­nic­i­pal af­fairs.

He also pro­posed in­creas­ing the re­tire­ment age for so­cial se­cu­rity to 67 and im­ple­ment­ing a “fair tax” in place of the fed­eral in­come tax; he called the in­come tax “one of the big­gest thefts that the fed­eral govern­ment does to its cit­i­zens.”

He de­nounced sin­gle­payer and fed­er­ally con­trolled health care in fa­vor of a free-mar­ket ap­proach.

And he touched on prison and crim­i­nal jus­tice re­form, cit­ing the need to com­bat opi­oid and drug abuse in the dis­trict but not clog jails and prisons with peo­ple con­victed of mi­nor crimes and mis­de­meanors, such as some in­volv­ing mar­i­juana.

Covert, orig­i­nally from Vir­ginia, has lived in the South Carolina since 1996, ac­cord­ing to his county coun­cil pro­file.

He and wife Theresa mar­ried in 2009. He has four daugh­ters and six grand­chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the pro­file.

He is pres­i­dent and man­ag­ing mem­ber of Covert Aire, LLC, a heat­ing and air-con­di­tion­ing busi­ness.

Mike Covert

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