Politics & Government

Blue wave in SC? York County Democrats say they’ll pose challenge in midterms

York County Democrat chair feels ‘really great’ on SC’s chance to ride ‘blue wave’

York County Democrat chair Jim Thompson said this week he believes South Carolina Democrats will be able to continue what’s been seen as a “blue wave” sweeping the nation, with Democrats picking up seats in several states throughout 2017.
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York County Democrat chair Jim Thompson said this week he believes South Carolina Democrats will be able to continue what’s been seen as a “blue wave” sweeping the nation, with Democrats picking up seats in several states throughout 2017.

It’s impossible to vote for Democratic Party values if a Democrat isn’t on the ballot, said Jim Thompson, chair of the York County Democrats.

He’s hoping that will soon change ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. Local Democrats say they’re hopeful South Carolina will continue a “blue wave” that has resulted in Democrats picking up Republican-leaning seats across the nation.

The organization biannual precinct reorganization meeting is 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Jan. 27 at Holiday Inn on Galleria Boulevard in Rock Hill. County Republicans hold their official reorganization meetings on odd years, while Democrats hold them on even years.

Reorganization is where interested voters can work to become a leader in their precinct by knocking on doors, overseeing call lists and turning out the local vote. The party will choose precinct officers for the 95 precincts in York County.

The local precinct is the backbone of a winning election, Thompson said. Strong turnout at reorganization meetings can be a sign of engaged voters turning into potential candidates for office.

“I think this year, we’ll see an uptick on Democrats running on every ballot slot,” Thompson said. “We’ve already had folks interested, asking questions about running for clerk of courts, state representatives and the like. Interest in people being candidates usually speaks a hundred fold for what we’ll see in the election.”

Thompson said the 2016 election of President Donald Trump has spurred more voters into becoming politically active. Of the 95 precincts in York County, Thompson said more than half of them now have organized leaders, compared to about a third in 2016.

I think this year, we’ll see an uptick on Democrats running on every ballot slot. Interest in people being candidates usually speaks a hundred fold for what we’ll see in the election.

Jim Thompson, York County Democratic Party chair

He said the local swell of support helped in last year’s special 5th District Congressional election. Democratic challenger Archie Parnell of Sumter fell less than 3,000 votes short of earning a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives against U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill.

Parnell has pledged to run against Norman in the 2018 midterms in November.

If Democrats can hold their own in York County and Republicans’ turnout is lighter than usual, Thompson said Democrats could win the district.

“And that could have a big impact on the governor’s race, as well as other races around the state,” he said.

All of South Carolina’s seven seats in the U.S. House of Representatives will be up for election this fall. Meanwhile, the offices of governor and lieutenant governor will be elected jointly as a ticket. There also will be open races for S.C. secretary of state, superintendent of education and others.

Democrats across the country are feeling increasingly bullish on their chances to retake the House or the U.S. Senate by the end of this year, including a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama for the first time in 30 years and a Wisconsin state Senate seat that had been Republican-held for 17 years.

Meanwhile, Trump’s approval ratings has been mired in the upper-30s for months.

York County Republican Party held a meeting Thursday night with Republican candidate for governor, Catherine Templeton, at Hilton Garden Inn in Rock Hill.

County Republican chair Tyler Griffin said his party’s representatives face “good chances” of winning re-election. He said the newly-passed tax reform law would soon put more money in constituents’ pockets.

Still, he said, Democrats will fight hard to regain Congressional seats.

“I won’t downplay the motivation they have,” Griffin said. “They’re in the same place we were in 2010 (two years after President Barack Obama was elected). They’ll use that as motivation to turn out numbers. What some Republicans can’t forget, we can’t be complacent. We can’t just sit back and enjoy the successes. We have to mobilize.”

Winning seats begins with identifying and selecting willing candidates, Thompson said. He said he’s received plenty of interest in all manner of elected positions, from clerk of courts to state representatives.

He said there has been Democratic interest in positions in York County and statewide that have gone unchallenged for nearly 20 years.

“If you live in a precinct, and you’ve never heard from the Democratic Party, they don’t know you’re here, and you don’t know that you can do something,” Thompson said, “and if you don’t feel you have a candidate, you feel like you’re in limbo. Getting people involved and excited at the precinct level, that helps.”

I won’t downplay the motivation they have. They’re in the same place we were in 2010. They’ll use that as motivation to turn out numbers.

Tyler Griffin, York County Republican Party chair

Phil Noble, a Democratic candidate in South Carolina’s governor race, said he’s seen plenty of hard-working candidates rise from the grassroots since Trump’s election.

He pointed out the success of newly-elected Rock Hill council member Nikita Jackson, who earned a 2-to-1 victory last fall over one-term incumbent Ann Williamson in Ward 5. Noble said he was inspired by how Jackson knocked on 2,000 doors to listen to constituents’ concerns.

“That’s the fundamental level of commitment you don’t see often in politics,” Noble said. “It’s not about Democrats or Republicans or conservatives or liberals. It’s about change vs. the status quo. It’s insiders vs. outsiders, reform or more of the same.”

David Thackham: 803-329-4066, @dthackham

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