S.C. Senate District 16 race turns hostile

The candidates hoping to represent Lancaster County and part of Fort Mill in the state Senate are of different gender, profession, personality type, native region and party.

Mick Mulvaney and Mandy Powers Norrell share little in common except their disdain for each other. They've spent months waging a fierce, and, at times, personal campaign to succeed the retiring Greg Gregory in District 16.

Mulvaney, a Republican real estate developer who lives in Indian Land, contends Norrell's views are out of step with a conservative district that likes its taxes low and its government intrusion kept to a minimum.

Norrell counters by portraying Mulvaney as an outsider who would undermine public schools through his support for private school vouchers. An Alexandria, Va., native, Mulvaney moved to Indian Land from Charlotte in 2002.

Both candidates draw from distinct bases of support. Mulvaney expects to fare well in northern Lancaster County where he lives, in part because he has represented the area in the state House for the past two years.

Norrell, a Democrat, boasts deep roots and a legion of friends in her hometown of Lancaster. The only bankruptcy lawyer in town, she also has served as city attorney since 1998.

This has become the most expensive political race in Lancaster County history, with both candidates raising more than $40,000. In recent weeks, the contest has taken a number of unexpected twists.

Fliers stuffed in car windshields after a candidates forum last week carried the title "The 2 faces of Mandy Norrell-Powers" and described how Norrell pitches herself as a conservative even though she favors higher cigarette taxes and including sexual orientation in South Carolina's anti-discrimination laws.

This week, state Republican operatives called attention to an e-mail sent four years ago from the account of Norrell and her husband, Mitch, shortly after the 2004 presidential election.

The e-mail opens with the statement, "we are pro-gay and pro-women, we support the ACLU," and later states, "We don't want publicly-sponsored prayer in schools, lest the Buddhists gain control of Congress."

Norrell said Tuesday her husband wrote the e-mail.

"My opponent is trying to use this nonissue to paint me as something I am not and distract from his own record of looking out only for himself," she said.

Norrell and her supporters believe Republicans are looking to create distractions because they're worried about losing the seat.

At a recent GOP function in Lancaster covered by The Lancaster News, Mulvaney said the intensity of the race has surprised him.

"This is a much larger undertaking than I ever expected," he said.

The candidates

Republican Mick Mulvaney

• Age: 41; born July 21, 1967

• Education: Graduate of Georgetown University, 1989, B.S. degree in international economics; UNC School of Law, 1992; Harvard Business School, 2006, owner & president's management certificate

• Career: President of the Mulvaney Group, a real estate development firm

• Family: Wife, Pamela; and triplets: Caroline, James and Finnegan

• Political experience: House District 45 representative since 2006

Democrat Mandy Powers Norrell

• Age: 35; born July 12, 1973

• Education: Bachelor's degree in English, Furman University, 1995; USC School of Law, cum laude, 1997

• Career: Attorney in Lancaster

• Family: Husband, Mitch; two children, Teddy and Emma

• Political experience: None