SC Politics

South Carolina ‘Sennatorial’ Drama Ramps Up After Election

Emboldened by victory, Lowcountry lawmaker takes on her critics …

Heading into the 2020 election cycle, arguably the most vulnerable incumbent in the entire South Carolina General Assembly was first-term state senator Sandy Senn – an attorney from Charleston, S.C.

As we noted in a preview of legislative races in the “upper” chamber, Senn was Democrats’ No. 1 target – and many believed her seat and several other “Republican”-held districts in the Lowcountry would be washed out by a “blue wave” even bigger than the one that swept across Charleston in 2018.

Certainly state senator Marlon Kimpson – a Democrat from Charleston – was confident his party would make gains sufficient to see him installed as the new chairman of the powerful county legislative delegation.

Did that happen? No …

Backed by a huge financial push from the S.C. Senate Republican caucus – or whatever the group is calling itself these days – Senn narrowly won a second, four-year term representing the people of S.C. Senate District 41 (.pdf).

With all ballots accounted for, the 57-year-old Orangeburg, S.C. native drew 50.85 percent of the vote compared to 49.07 percent for her Democratic opponent, former congressional staffer Sam Skardon.

While Senn was the incumbent, the race was viewed by many Palmetto political pundits as a huge upset.

According to our sources, the caucus invested heavily in Senn’s race – dropping seven different mail pieces, setting up an expansive voter identification network and spending $50,000 in television and another $50,000 in digital ads.

Senn also campaigned like her political life depended on it … which, it did.

Not only did Senn reclaim her seat as part of a “red storm” that swept across the state, Republicans fended off credible challenges to S.C. Senate District 43 (.pdf) – a seat held by veteran lawmaker Chip Campsen – and S.C. Senate District 44 (.pdf), a seat which was vacated by fiscal liberal/ crony capitalist Paul Campbell.

The caucus was heavily involved in those races, too – especially District 43, where it launched seven mailers, television ads and a “gigantic” digital buy in support of Campsen, according to sources familiar with the organization’s spending.

Thanks to these efforts, Democrats took none of their S.C. Senate targets … while Republicans picked off three incumbent members of their caucus, including a shocking upset in S.C. Senate District 27 (.pdf).

While the GOP grapples with its unexpected success (here and here), Democrats are reeling from their losses (here and here).

We reached out to Kimpson in the aftermath of Senn’s surprising win to get his thoughts on the situation.

“I give her credit for the victory but I’m hoping she does some introspection,” Kimpson told us. “She seems to be somewhat out of touch with the reality of what’s going on in Charleston. That’s important going forward as we seek to form a united agenda for the people of our community.”

“Her reelection – she’s gotta decide who she wants to serve,” Kimpson continued. “Her constituents – who are part of a Charleston demographic that is more progressive? Or her right-wing allies who kowtow to big corporations and want to outlaw abortion.”

Senn – who has frequently sparred with Kimpson on the floor of the Senate – told us she welcomed her colleague’s feedback.

“I thank Senator Kimpson for giving me his sage advice,” she told us. “In fact, I appreciate it so much that I have taken notes. However, I have stayed positive throughout my whole campaign. I won’t get negative now with a senator who should not have involved himself in my race. Instead,  I’ll get back to work for the next four years for Charleston and Dorchester counties.”

While Senn clearly got the better of Kimpson in their ongoing Lowcountry rivalry, on one point the Democratic lawmaker is correct …

With Republicans enjoying a near super-majority in the S.C. Senate, we expect the GOP caucus will be far more aggressive in pushing hot-button social issues. This is likely to include a renewed push on pro-life legislation – which tied the chamber in knots two years ago.

Senn will certainly have to work on navigating that particular issue better this go-round …

(Click to view)

(Via: Sandy Senn for Senate)




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