Francis Person, a Tega Cay Democrat, ex-Gamecock football player and former aide to Vice President Joe Biden, has announced plans to run for Congress.
Person announced his intent to challenge Indian Land Republican Mick Mulvaney for the 5th Congressional District seat in a YouTube video Monday.
Person says he wants to focus on education, rebuilding America’s infrastructure and ending budget cuts known as “sequestration.”
“Mick Mulvaney went to Congress in 2010 to fix a broken Congress,” Person says in the video. “But the truth is, Congress has just gotten more broken since he’s been there.”
A Philadelphia, Pa., native, Person was recruited to the University of South Carolina by former football coach Lou Holtz in 2001, playing center on an athletic scholarship.
Off the football field, Person was planning to go to law school, until the redshirt senior took a political science course that included a visit from the then-U.S. Sen. Biden, a Democrat from Delaware.
“I went up to him afterward to introduce myself, and while we were talking he asked me what I was going to do when I was done,” Person remembers.
After his last game with the Gamecocks, the 2005 Independence Bowl, Person gave Biden a call and a month later was working in Biden’s Senate office. He would go on to work as a personal aide to Biden on his 2008 presidential bid. After Biden joined the Obama administration, Person left his post in 2014 with the title “adviser to the vice president.”
“I went everywhere with him. He was an incredible guy to learn from,” Person said. “He became like a second father to me.”
After he left Washington, Person returned to USC in an advisory role to college president Harris Pastides and athletic director Ray Tanner, working on student-athlete issues at the Columbia campus. He takes pride in working to guarantee a full four years to scholarship athletes.
His work at the university already is attracting attention. The day he announced his plans to run for Congress, the S.C. Republican Party filed a Freedom of Information request with USC for any emails or other messages around Person that mention Congress, Mulvaney, or the words “fundraising” or “donation.”
“Given Hillary Clinton’s email scandal, people deserve to know if politicians are using taxpayer-funded email servers for political purposes,” said South Carolina GOP chairman Matt Moore.
Mulvaney has represented the 5th District since he defeated longtime Democratic incumbent John Spratt in 2010. In Congress, he’s established himself as an active conservative and occasional thorn in the side of the Republican leadership. Mulvaney was a founder of the House Freedom Caucus credited with forcing the resignation of Speaker John Boehner last year. He easily won re-election in 2012 and 2014.
But Person hopes to build a broader voting base as he campaigns around the district this year.
“My frustration with Congress is now it’s where you go to fight with everybody. It has to be all your way or nothing gets done,” he said. “I think people want to see government work.”