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Election 2010

June 22 Runoff In S.C. Could Result In Black Republican To Congress

With so much to write about in the aftermath of Tuesday's primaries, forgive us if we missed a thread or two.

And in trying to explain the more interesting stories from South Carolina, there were, it's fair to say, tons to choose from.  Just check out the new Democratic nominee for the Senate (see yesterday's post), a story that just gets more and more bizarre.

But here's one more worth noting:  The son of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond is in a June 22 runoff with South Carolina's first black Republican state legislator for an open House seat in the First Congressional District.

Strom Thurmond's record on race certainly changed in the last decades of his Senate tenure, but for a long time he was closely associated with segregation; witness his 1948 run for president on a third-party "state's rights" ticket that strongly opposed integration.

So maybe it's just symbolism here, but the thought of watching Paul Thurmond, currently a Charleston Co. councilman, square off against state Rep. Tim Scott in the runoff does have a delicious irony.

Scott, who in 2008 became the first black GOP state rep. in the Palmetto State since Reconstruction, finished first in Tuesday's primary to fill the seat of retiring Rep. Henry Brown (R).  Whoever wins the Republican runoff is all but assured of victory in this heavily Republican district.

(Finishing third in Tuesday's primary was Carroll Campbell III, the son of the late governor.  And speaking of famous sons, or sons of famous people, the son of Rep. Joe "You Lie" Wilson, Alan Wilson, advanced to a runoff for state attorney general.)

There have been only three black Republicans elected to the House since Reconstruction.  If he wins on June 22, Scott will be the first from the Deep South:

Oscar De Priest (Ill.) — In the House from 1929 to 1934 (when he was defeated by Arthur Mitchell, who became the first black Democrat elected to the House).

Gary Franks (Conn.) — First elected in 1990, winning the seat vacated by GOP gov. candidate John Rowland; defeated in 1996 by Jim Maloney (D).

J.C. Watts (Okla.) — First elected in 1994, winning the seat vacated by Democratic Senate candidate Dave McCurdy; retired in 2002.

UPDATE:  Commenter "jim b" below says that for balance, it would be nice to know how many black Democrats have been elected to Congress since Reconstruction to compare with the four Republicans.  The answer:  94.