U.S. Rep. John Spratt was swept from office Tuesday by Republican Mick Mulvaney, riding an anti-incumbent wave that ended a 28-year tenure and an era in South Carolina politics.
The state senator from Indian Land took the stage at 11 p.m. before hundreds of cheering supporters at USC Lancaster chanting "Mick! Mick! Mick!"
Conservative and Republican outrage over federal spending, endorsed by Spratt, pushed him to victory, Mulvaney said.
"We really believe you should pick your own doctor," Mulvaney said. "We really do believe private business is the way to create jobs, and we really believe you can't spend money you don't have."
Mulvaney said his victory should not be attributed to a national wave.
"This was about Congressman Spratt's voting record," he said, which included support for federal spending programs clearly unpopular with voters in the district.
He said his victory over Spratt came down to 5th Congressional District voters agreeing with his conservative values, coupled with a Congress and Democratic Party too overzealous in spending programs such as health care and the economic stimulus package.
Spratt spoke to supporters at the Rock Hill VFW Post, surrounded by his wife Jane, three daughters, and several grandchildren. He said he still wanted to see the final vote totals from at least two incomplete counties before he called Mulvaney to concede.
Mulvaney took Lancaster County, capturing nearly 60 percent of the vote, according to unofficial election results not available before midnight. Spratt received just over 40 percent. In Sumter County, Mulvaney's margin of win is just over 500 votes.
"We need to have a definitive account of all the counties in the district," the York Democrat said. "It's a long shot and highly improbable, but at the very least we ought to have a definitive answer that the result is not in our favor.
"I'd like to know the damn numbers and know they were processed correctly," he said. "I have a right to know."
Spratt said he planned to call Mulvaney this morning.
The wide margin of victory was a conservative revolt against Spratt and Democrats, Mulvaney said, and came just nine months after "I didn't think we could win."
The campaign included several attack ads, with one ad alleging that Mulvaney believed Social Security was illegal and showing an elderly woman in jail.
Mulvaney laughed about that ad with the crowd of several hundred that included many seniors.
"You all have a lot of nerve showing up," he said, "knowing I'm going to arrest you for getting Social Security."
The victory was not just a Republican win, Mulvaney said, but a "conservative 5th District message."
Mulvaney praised the more than 900 volunteers who worked on the campaign, including one, John Major of Blacksburg, who opted to work the campaign rather than get treatment for cancer.
Major said it was worth it, telling the crowd, "Be involved - don't let somebody else do it."
Mulvaney said his first order of business in Washington would be to get a health care repeal bill passed and work on the out-of-control federal budget.
Spratt was asked about the possibility of a career-ending defeat in a recent interview. He dwelled on the subject for only a brief moment before saying he expected to win.
"There's life after Congress," he said. "I've got five grandchildren who are the glory of my life.
"I wouldn't feel cheated. If you can't take rejection, you shouldn't be in politics."
Spratt is not finished with his duties on Capitol Hill. He sits on a bipartisan panel appointed by President Obama that will make sweeping recommendations next month on reducing the national debt.
It's the signature issue of Spratt's career, and the recommendations could prove to be the final chapter of his legislative story, which will end when Mulvaney takes office in January.
Spratt brought hundreds of millions back to South Carolina, including more than $120 million in building projects for Shaw Air Force Base in Sumter.
He also settled the Catawba Indian land claim and cleared the title to 225 square miles of land in York and Lancaster counties. Without the settlement, development in York County would have come to a standstill.