Eric Bedingfield says he is prepared for long days and late nights in his new role as district director for U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney.
Bedingfield, a Greenville County Republican, plans to keep his seat in the Legislature while working full-time in Mulvaney's Rock Hill congressional office.
Local Democrats question why Mulvaney would hire a senior staffer from more than an hour outside the Fifth Congressional District.
"Mick represents all or part of 14 counties," said Richards McCrae, chairman of the York County Democratic Party. "He couldn't find one person in the district capable of doing the job?"
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Bedingfield served as Mulvaney's campaign manager and helped his fellow tea party favorite defeat 14-term incumbent Rep. John Spratt.
Bedingfield outlined his plans last week in an interview with The Herald. His daily routine will require a 1-hour, 20-minute commute from Mauldin, but Bedingfield said he'll have access to a rental apartment in Lancaster on nights he works late.
In addition, Bedingfield said staffers for Mulvaney will use mobile technology, such as laptops and smart phones to allow for quick constituent service.
"I'm committed to Mick, and I'm committed to my service to the people I represent," Bedingfield said. "If at any point in time, I feel like there is a discrepancy in either one, I'll adjust appropriately."
A spokesman for Mulvaney said Bedingfield will provide top-notch constituent service. Mulvaney was not available for an interview.
"His (Bedingfield's) knowledge and experience in both state and local government will be a great asset to our team," said spokesman Bryan Partridge.
When asked how much Bedingfield would be paid, Partridge said that information would be released in the next Congressional quarterly report.
Former Spratt aide Jeffery Sligh joined Mulvaney's staff and will keep his title as deputy district administrator. Sligh is a longtime Rock Hill religious and civic leader.
"He already understands a number of the personalities Mr. Spratt has dealt with over the years," Bedingfield said. "We'll certainly lean on that."
During the legislation session, state lawmakers typically conduct business Tuesday afternoons and Wednesday and Thursday mornings.
Bedingfield said he will hustle from Columbia to nearby Fifth District cities such as Sumter and Camden. He might hire an aide to help return phone calls for his constituents in state House District 28, which covers southern Greenville.
"With today's technology, there are plenty of tasks that can be accomplished over the Internet or by telephone," he said. "It doesn't have to be done face-to-face."
A district director must serve as a stand-in for a House member, said Robert Hopkins, Spratt's former district aide. That means attending chamber of commerce dinners and civic club luncheons, and meeting with local officials across the district.
"I just can't tell you how many nights there were when I rolled back in here at 10, 11 o'clock," Hopkins said. "They may know some magic I don't know. Maybe he's got a helicopter."
Hiring a district chief from outside is unusual, said Max Ford, a Republican and former member of the Kershaw County Council. Ford said he voted for Spratt, but he disagreed with Spratt's recent votes, including on health care.
"I don't see how that arrangement works to much benefit for his district," said Ford, a Congressional staffer in the 1970s. "I'm not saying it can't work; I've just never seen that. Usually, your district director is there full-time and available 24-7."
Bedingfield worked as a real estate agent before he got into politics, which helps explain why his 2005 Buick LeSabre already has logged more than 100,000 miles. The drive from Mauldin to Rock Hill covers about 100 miles.
In his new job, Bedingfield said he will be reimbursed for mileage for travel within the district. State legislators receive fixed mileage amounts based on the distance between their homes and Columbia.
This is a new experience for both parties. The last two transitions came with plenty of notice as retiring Rep. Tom Gettys turned things over to successor Ken Holland in 1974, and Holland did the same for Spratt when he retired in 1982.
The last time an incumbent lost in the 5th District was 1932, when William F. Stevenson, a Democrat from Chesterfield, lost in a primary to James P. Richards of Lancaster County.
Voters in the district have not elected a Republican since Reconstruction.
Soon after the Nov. 2 election, Spratt vacated his office on the top floor of the Gettys Center on East Main Street. City officials who own the property are trying to figure out how to use it.