Republican Congressman Ralph Norman narrowly defeated a Democratic candidate last fall in a special House election.
It was the closest congressional race in South Carolina in 20 years. Since then, there have been several races in the U.S. where GOP candidates did not win in long-held Republican districts.
The most recent upset came Wednesday when Democrat Conor Lamb won the special House election in Pennsylvania by a 600-vote margin -- in a district that elected President Donald Trump by almost 20 percentage points in 2016.
Norman beat Democrat Archie Parnell by 3.2 percentage points last fall – and Parnell announced his candidacy once more in the 2018 race. Are the recent upsets an indicator the conservative winds in the U.S. – and maybe York County – have significantly shifted?
York County Republican Party chairman Tyler Griffin attributes the Pennsylvania win to the enthusiasm behind Lamb’s candidacy.
“I think this is maybe something that all Republicans should look at and take a lesson out of,” he said. “And that’s that we can’t take our position for granted. Just because we won in 2016 doesn’t mean we’re going to win in 2018.”
But he said enthusiasm isn’t an exclusively Democratic attribute.
“I think it’s important that Republicans match that enthusiasm,” he said.
York County Democratic Party chairman Jim Thompson said his party was energized before the Pennsylvania victory.
“We’ve been energized since Alabama,” he said.
Democrat Doug Jones beat Republican Roy Moore in a typically Republican Alabama special Senate election in December.
Thompson said he believes the national trend of Democratic victories will continue.
“I think there’s going to be a Palmetto blue wave as well,” he said.
Parnell said he’s feeling confident.
“I see similarities between Doug Jones and Conor Lamb and myself,” he said. “We’re reasonable people who want to talk about the issues.”
Thompson said he believes York County voters are more interested in politics than he’s seen in more than 30 years.
“They’re going to see a vigorous and engaged Democratic Party but a vigorous and engaged electorate as well,” he said.
Norman said he welcomes competition.
“I respect anybody who puts their name on the line,” Norman said. “It’s a good chance for me to show the record. We’ve got a great record.”
Norman said his focus is on South Carolina residents. He said he focuses on the quote on his office door: “This seat belongs to the people of the 5th district.”
Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068