At face value, the South Carolina 5th District race between long-time incumbent Democrat John Spratt and Republican challenger Mick Mulvaney looks like a Goliath vs. David battle. Yet in spite of his long tenure in Congress — Pratt has represented the 5th District since 1983 — Mulvaney’s poll numbers reveal that this will be a tough race for the incumbent.
Candidates for South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District (two-year term)
(The boundary map shows that this district is a mix of rural areas and includes the counties of Cherokee, Marlboro, York and Lancaster.)
Candidate: John Spratt
Political experience: Spratt has a long-standing congressional track record. Even before being elected to Congress, he served as York County attorney from 1973 to 1982. He is also the at-large Democratic whip. Spratt sits on the Armed Services Committee and chairs the Budget Committee.
Professional experience: Spratt served in the Army from 1969 to 1971. He received the Meritorious Service Medal. After his time in the Army, he worked as attorney, bank president, farm and small-business owner.
Key issues: Spratt advocates for an increase in education funding, but he does favor a decrease in spending related to welfare, space exploration and transportation infrastructure. Spratt agrees with tax increases for families making more than $150,000 as well as increases in capital gains and cigarette taxes.
Endorsements: Spratt has the support of numerous high-ranking Democrats, including Vice President Joe Biden.
Chances of maintaining his seat: There is a lot of talk about anti-incumbent sentiment in the 2010 election. Not even a long-time congressman, such as Spratt, is immune. His close association with President Obama and the health care bill further serves to bring down his numbers. For example, Public Policy Poll numbers indicate that in January the electorate was split on Spratt’s work. Forty-one percent approved of Spratt’s job performance while 42 percent disapproved. Eighteen percent were undecided. Although he has better than average chances of keeping his seat, this candidate does face a very real battle this time around.
Candidate: Mick Mulvaney
Political experience: Mulvaney represents the District 16 in the South Carolina state senate. This makes him the go-to representative for residents in York and Lancaster counties. He is also courted by the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program.
Professional experience: Mulvaney is an attorney and business owner.
Key issues: Mulvaney’s voting record shows strong conservative sentiments. Vote Smart shows he voted against a cigarette-tax increase but in favor of employer-mandated immigration background checks of new employees.
Endorsements: Just like Spratt can point to some rather highly-respected political endorsements, Mick Mulvaney also has a number of high-ranking current and former office holders on his side. He is endorsed by the Mike Huckabee PAC, Gun Owners of America and the anti-tax Club for Growth.
Chances of unseating John Spratt: Spratt is a tough opponent to beat. He has a long-standing history in Congress and his position as a moderate Democrat makes him likable even to moderate Republicans. That said, Spratt’s recent support of controversial legislation — most notably the health care reform bill — is coming back to haunt him. Early polling suggested that a runoff between Spratt and Mulvaney would result in a 46 percent to 39 percent split with 15 percent straddling the fence. This is a very narrow margin that makes the South Carolina 5th District a tossup race.
Key Differences between John Spratt and Mick Mulvaney
Health care: Spratt is in favor of the recently passed health care legislation. He firmly believes that the law “will make medical care both more available and more affordable.” Mulvaney champions health care reform but not government-run healthcare.
Taxes: Spratt seeks to protect middle class families from additional taxes but favors an increase in “sin” taxes. He also agrees with tax increases for higher-income families. Mulvaney disagrees with tax increases.
Jobs: Mulvaney and Spratt take different roads with respect to job growth. While Mulvaney blasts the stimulus bill as being little more than a bailout for Wall Street, he sees a strengthening of the economy as coming from businesses with eased tax burdens, which leads to renewed investment in the business and subsequent hiring. Spratt takes the buy-American route when dealing with lost jobs. He opposes trade agreements that disadvantage American businesses and subsequently workers.
South Carolina‘s 5th U.S. Congressional District
Location: The South Carolina 5th District borders North Carolina. It includes the counties of Kershaw, Lancaster, Fairfield, Marlboro, York, Newberry, Dillon, Chester and Darlington.
2008 results: Spratt beat Republican Albert Spencer with 62 percent to 37 percent.
Demographics: Proximity One says there are 741,335 residents in the South Carolina 5th District. Of these, 65.35 percent are white, 31.02 are black and 3.10 identify as Latino or Hispanic. More than 17 percent of residents live at the poverty level.
The Cook Partisan Index gives the South Carolina 5th District a rating of R+7, which indicates that Republicans have an edge in this locale.