Friday, October 17, 2008

Something Borrowed, Turning Blue

Last week the NRCC (National Republican Congressional Committee) took out a eight million dollar loan so they could keep pumping money into defending various congressional seats (including some here in South Carolina). Today the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee) has countered and taken out a loan of fifteen million that they plan to use to turn a number of once red congressional districts blue (hopefully including a couple here is SC).



Anonymous said...

Democrat tries to take GOP's House 79 seat

The State/File photograph
David Herndon

The race for the S.C. House district that represents Northeast Richland and southwest Kershaw County

Anton Gunn

The Democratic candidate

Age: 35

Residence: Northeast Richland

Occupation: Head of the nonprofit S.C. Fair Share and owner of a speaking business

Political experience: S.C. political director for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee

Web site:

David Herndon

The Republican candidate

Age: 41

Residence: Elgin

Occupation: Small-business owner

Political experience: Briefly was chairman of the Kershaw County GOP before announcing his candidacy

Web site:

Where House 79 candidates, Democrat Anton Gunn and Republican David Herndon, stand on the issues


This is where the candidates share the most common ground. Both oppose the creation of school vouchers or tax credits for parents who send their children to private schools. Both think Act 388, which made the state sales tax the primary funding source for public schools, needs to be tweaked. Both favor the consolidation of school districts and agree with many of state Superintendent of Education Jim Rex’s ideas about increased public school choice.

Herndon favors a spending cap on school districts. Gunn does not.


Herndon wants to lower taxes on individuals and businesses. Eliminating government waste and streamlining government are the focus of his campaign, including the creation of a Department of Administration.

Gunn wants to restructure the state’s tax code, shifting breaks to the middle class and lowering the sales tax.

Both want to raise the cigarette tax. Gunn would use the proceeds to pay for health care for small businesses. Herndon would use the money for health care or to lower the state income tax.


Each says his experiences makes him the best candidate. Herndon owns a small business, a mulch and pine straw company. Gunn, who has worked as a community organizer, is head of a nonprofit.
On Nov. 4, voters in House District 79 will choose a Democrat with much in common with Barack Obama or keep the faith with a Republican who practices the same moderate brand of Republicanism as his predecessor.

On the campaign trail, Democrat Anton Gunn sounds Obama-esque.

“When I finished at USC, I didn’t go to work for corporate America,” Gunn told a crowd during a debate between the candidates to represent the district, which spans Northeast Richland and southwest Kershaw County. “I didn’t go to work for state government.”

Instead, Gunn became a community organizer, as Obama did in Chicago after graduating from Harvard Law School. Both say they turned down more profitable career opportunities to work for community causes.

David Herndon, Gunn’s Republican opponent, is a small government-lower taxes conservative with a progressive view of education.

A small-business owner, he is cut from cloth similar to state Rep. Bill Cotty, the moderate Republican who has held the Northeast Richland/Kershaw County seat since 1995. Cotty announced his retirement earlier this year.

“I’m here because of the children,” Herndon, a father of three, told the debate crowd. “Not only mine but all of ours.”


Twenty months ago, few knew who Barack Obama was.

Gunn, a relative campaign newbie at the time, thought the U.S. senator of Illinois should be the next president and he could help him do it.

Fast forward to today: The once-unknown Obama leads in the presidential polls, and South Carolina is gaining the reputation as the state — above all others — that helped launch him to the nomination.

Gunn was Obama’s S.C. political director, delivering 55 percent of the state’s Democratic vote in January’s primary.

That brought statewide name recognition and national media exposure to Gunn. An August article in Time magazine about Gunn was entitled “A Leader of Obama’s Grassroots Army.”

Meanwhile, Herndon is running for office for the first time and is best-known politically for a short stint as chairman of the Kershaw County GOP.

The two candidates are even in terms of outside help.

Both the Republican and Democratic state parties are phone-banking for their respective candidates. And each has received $5,000 from his State House caucus.

However, Gunn is ahead in fundraising, bringing in nearly $80,000 from contributors around the nation, including some deep-pocketed donors in California, New York and Washington, D.C.

Herndon, who is not accepting out-of-state contributions from special interests or political action committees, has raised about $26,000, according to his campaign manager, Rod Shealy Jr.

Shealy points out that Herndon was heavily outspent in the primaries but still won with 56 percent of the vote.

What may affect the race the most is something neither candidate has control over — the district’s increasingly diverse demographics.

District 79, one of the largest in the state in terms of registered voters, is nearly 40 percent “non-white” with more than 12,000 black and Hispanic voters and more than 19,000 white voters. A large minority population generally favors a Democrat.

The slumping economy paired with an unpopular Republican president also could trickle down to hurt Herndon and other Republicans in state races.

“This year brings challenges,” said Herndon, who says he will donate his legislative salary to community causes if elected and will not serve more than three terms. “But South Carolina has been a Republican state for a long time. It’s always been a Republican seat.”

For more than a decade, the district’s voters embraced Cotty, a moderate Republican who worked successfully across the aisle to reform welfare and to remove the Confederate flag from the State House dome.

Cotty has endorsed Herndon.

“The Legislature, House and Senate, are dominated by Republicans,” Cotty said. “To put a Democrat in is akin to having no voice. The big issues, like public education financing, are going to be made by the Republican Party.”


Gunn, a former USC offensive lineman, says his work with Obama has not altered his strategy. (Much of his time on the Obama campaign was spent in other parts of South Carolina, he said.)

Instead, Gunn says he is sticking to the same strategy that he used in 2006, when he narrowly lost to Cotty.

“I’m just doing more of it,” Gunn said. “In 2006, I just ran out of time. If I had talked to 298 more people, then I would have won.”

Gunn’s biggest lesson from his 2006 defeat? Take no voter for granted.

“Whether someone is a staunch conservative who’s never voted for a Democrat or a die-hard Democrat who’s never voted for a Republican, they’re all people,” he said. “As a candidate, if you take the time to talk to people, you’ll find out that there are things you have in common.”

Herndon is complimentary of his predecessor, Cotty, but is also working to make his own mark.

Shealy, Herndon’s campaign manager, predicts the Republican will take a more visible role in enacting major state reforms, including eliminating the state Budget and Control Board and the competitive grants program, which lawmakers use to funnel money to local projects. Critics call it a legislative slush fund.

“He’s running primarily to give the reformers another ally, someone who wants to restructure government,” Shealy said.

Reach Smith at (803) 771-8658.

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