As Congressman-elect Mick Mulvaney prepares to join the U.S. House, seven Republicans and one Libertarian are eyeing his former state Senate seat.
The list of hopefuls - some declared, others still mulling it over - includes an accountant, pharmacist, car dealer, truck driver and senior home care consultant.
About the only thing missing is a Democrat.
Filing opens Friday at noon for a special election to fill the District 16 seat, which hit the market after Mulvaney defeated 14-term U.S. Rep. John Spratt in the Nov. 2 election.
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With no incumbent on the ballot, candidates view the contest as wide open, said Lancaster County GOP Chairman Winston Smith, who is himself considering a bid.
"Incumbents tend to make it a hard, uphill battle for a lot of people," Smith said.
Lancaster pharmacy owner Hugh Mobley secured early support from GOP establishment figures and boasts nearly $40,000 in fundraising. Many $1,000 contributions came from pharmacies in the district.
Other candidates tout their grass-roots credentials and ties to the tea party movement.
Republican hopeful Rob McCoy has served as an emcee at many Lancaster tea party events. He sent out a photo of himself shaking hands with U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., as part of his announcement.
McCoy recently moved into the district from the Heath Springs area of Lancaster County so he could run.
"We started out with about 200 people," McCoy said of local tea party rallies. "Now we have about 500. Mick is known for his conservative voting record in Columbia. I want to make sure we don't want to lose what we have."
The race could break along geographic lines, with three candidates from Lancaster, three from Fort Mill and one from Indian Land, said Brian Carnes, the lone Indian Land hopeful.
All are portraying themselves as conservative choices, Carnes said.
"If you look at the last three or four races (in the area), the candidates have gotten more and more conservative to match the makeup of the district," he said.
So far, Stan Smith is the only candidate not planning to run as a Republican. The Libertarian recently lost to Norman for the S.C. House District 48 seat.
Some voters view Libertarians as radicals, Smith said, but the party simply seeks to protect individual rights and free markets.
"Minimum government, maximum freedom," Smith said. "Republicans sometimes say similar things, but they don't mean them."
Fort Mill attorney and businessman Bayles Mack, a former state highway commissioner, initially expressed interest but made no announcement.
Mulvaney submitted his resignation on Dec. 10, triggering the process for filling his Senate seat.
A primary is Feb. 22, with a runoff March 8, if necessary. The election is April 12.
The winner will complete two years left on Mulvaney's four-year term in Senate District 16 - a narrow stretch from rural southern Lancaster County into Fort Mill, including Baxter Village.
No contenders have surfaced on the Democratic side, at least publicly. The party expects to field at least one candidate from York County, said county chairman Richards McCrae, who was not ready to name the prospect.
The seven Republicans (in alphabetical order) who have expressed interest in Mick Mulvaney's S.C. Senate seat, according to interviews and a list from York County GOP Chairman Glenn McCall.
Keith Brann, Fort Mill: An accountant who moved from New Jersey three years ago, Brann describes himself as an "independent moderate Republican." This is his first run for office. He's been active as leader for his kids' Scout troops.
Brian Carnes, Indian Land: A lifelong resident of Indian Land, Carnes served two terms on the Lancaster County school board from 1998 to 2006. Carnes is a partner in two businesses - one that sells fan and lighting displays to chain stores, and another that provides in-home, non-medical care for seniors.
Rob McCoy, Lancaster: McCoy grew up in the Heath Springs area and now owns McCoy Motors. He is active in the tea party movement, serving as emcee for many Lancaster events. McCoy recently ran for the state House District 44 seat held by Kershaw Democrat James D. "Jimmy" Neal.
Hugh Mobley, Lancaster: The Lancaster pharmacist and owner of Mobley Drugs received early support from Republicans, including former state Sen. Greg Gregory and S.C. Rep. Deborah Long. Mobley is working with Starboard Communications, the Columbia political consulting firm that helped Mulvaney in his U.S. House run.
Wendy Petzel, Fort Mill: According to her Facebook page, Petzel is involved with Morningstar Ministries in Fort Mill and describes herself as a "smiling giggly lover of Jesus."
Mike Short, Fort Mill: Best known as former chairman of the York County Council, Short recently retired after 20 years as owner of an insurance agency in Lake Wylie. He's a Fort Mill native and graduate of Fort Mill High School.
Winston Smith, Lancaster: The chairman of the Lancaster County Republican Party appeared often at Mulvaney campaign events. Formerly in the portable storage business, Smith now hauls materials for customers.
Want to run?
Democrats can file at the law office of Morton & Gettys, 334 Oakland Ave., Rock Hill.
Republicans can file at the law office of Wes Hayes, 200 Oakland Ave., Rock Hill. Call 803-327-0560 to make an appointment for filing.
Filing opens at noon on Friday and closes at noon on Jan. 10, 2011. The fee is $165 for all candidates.