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Election 2012: Bauer and Rice line up votes for 7th Disrict runoff

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Of 37,468 votes cast in 7th Congressional District race during last week’s primary, 15,179 people voted for candidates other than André Bauer and Tom Rice, the top vote-getters who will compete in a runoff on Tuesday.

As the big day draws nearer, Bauer, a former S.C. lieutenant governor, and Rice, the Horry County Council chairman, are doing everything in their power to lure those voters and become the Republican nominee.

The endorsements started rolling last week, with Chad Prosser, the fourth place runner-up, announcing his support for Rice, and possibly giving him an advantage with the nearly 4,000 who voted for Prosser.

Rice also got an endorsement from state Rep. Alan Clemmons shortly after, in which Clemmons criticized Bauer’s political tactics. Then this week came endorsements for Rice from Randal Wallace, another 7th District primary candidate, and Robert Rabon, immediate past chairman of the Horry County Republican Party.

It was quiet from the Bauer camp as far as endorsements last week.

“I’ve got tons of endorsements I can release right now,” Bauer said on Friday. He chose not to, he added, because that’s not what he wanted voters focused on.

“I want to focus on getting people to see the difference between myself and my opponent,” he said. “I want this campaign more than anything to be about who really is conservative and who will go to Washington and fight for what is conservative. Too often that gets lost in all the pomp and circumstance.”

But on Monday night, when Bauer spoke to the Waccamaw Neck Republican Club, he brought Katherine Jenerette with him. The fifth-place finisher in the primary, she claimed just over 1,450 votes and announced her endorsement of Bauer that morning. She first made him promise he would “take care of the people of this district and have our backs in Washington, D.C., against big government,” and that he would go to Afghanistan and see first-hand what soldiers are going through on a daily basis, she said.

Rice didn’t attend the meeting on Monday because he had already committed to an event in Florence County, he said, but he was working to arrange opportunities to meet with Georgetown County voters before the week’s end. He’s scheduled to attend two private fundraisers in Georgetown today.

Bauer also got the backing of two of Rice’s fellow council members — Al Alan and Bob Grabowski — and an Horry County nonprofit that promotes motorcycle awareness and voluntary motorcycle rider training on Monday.

Jay Jordan, the third-place finisher with 22 percent of the vote, and who carried the vote in Florence and Darlington counties, said on Tuesday he won’t endorse either candidate. One of his supporters who attended the Republican Club meeting said she wouldn’t have been swayed by an endorsement anyway. She had already decided to vote for Bauer in the runoff, because she likes his track record.

She didn’t want to be named, which seems to be the case with a lot of voters this year.

“People are being very close-mouthed,” about who they’re supporting this year, said Jerry Rovner, Republican Club president. He’s never seen voters as unwilling to talk publicly about who they’re supporting, he added.

However, a list of public officials came forward in support of Rice on Tuesday, forming a group called Concerned Conservatives for Tom Rice. The group lists among its ranks Georgetown County Council members Jerry Oakley and Ron Charlton, former county GOP chairman Tom Swatzel, and Georgetown City Council member Paige Sawyer.

Craig Daniel, a Pawleys Island area resident, was a little hesitant to talk about his choice, but he’s backing Bauer, he said. He came to that decision Monday after hearing Bauer address the club. He wanted to hear what Bauer had to say about waste, fraud and abuse, and was pleased with what was said.

“He seems to be as frustrated as I am about it,” Daniel said. “He seems to be on the same page as we are.”

As for Jenerette’s endorsement, that certainly didn’t hurt, as Daniel supported her in the primary.

“When he gets to Washington, how he’s going to behave, we don’t know that yet, but Katherine Jenerette says she’s going to hold his feet to the fire and I’m going to hold Katherine Jenerette’s feet to the fire. I just told her that,” Daniel said.

Supporters of Dick Withington, who got 650 votes in the primary, may find themselves crossing party lines in November if they follow his lead. He refused to endorse Bauer or Rice this week, saying he’s dissatisfied with the solutions they offer and won’t vote in the runoff. He was more impressed with Democrat Gloria Bromell Tinubu.

Candidates Jim Mader and Renee Culler hadn’t endorsed candidates as of Wednesday. Mader said he plans to endorse a candidate today. Culler couldn’t be reached for comment.

Bauer was the top finisher in the primary with 12,037 votes to Rice’s 10,252. But what happens in the runoff, with seven primary candidates off the ballot, is anyone’s guess.

Not only do Bauer and Rice have to concern themselves with winning over those who voted last week, they have to try to worry about those who didn’t.

A runoff is a continuation of the primary and voters who cast ballots in the primary can’t switch parties for the runoff. Only those who voted in the Republican primary can vote in the Republican runoff.

Voters who didn’t vote in either primary on June 12 can vote in the runoff, regardless of which party they actually identify with.

Voter turnout was low — just 11.5 percent statewide — so there are a huge number of voters who are eligible to vote in the runoff. As a result both candidates need every vote they can get.

Neither was willing to go into detail about their campaign strategy at this point in the race because they didn’t want their competition to have more information than they already do. However, both have been on the go almost nonstop since the primary.

Bauer was in Florence over the weekend and spent part of Father’s Day campaigning door to door there. He and Rice were there on Tuesday. That area seems to be more worrisome to Rice than the coast, where he’s better known.

“There were seven [other] candidates from Horry County, and with them out of the race, I think I pick up a lot more of that vote than André Bauer does,” Rice said. “I think I pick up a lot of people from Florence as well.”

But Rice is trying to get out and see as many people in as much of the 7th District as possible.

He criticized Bauer for highly publicized past troubles, including trying to use his political position to get out of speeding tickets when he was lieutenant governor and for notoriously comparing helping the poor to feeding stray animals.

Bauer addressed those issues and accusations he’s a carpetbagger at the Republican Club meeting, and criticized Rice for being inaccessible and too moderate, among other things. Where Bauer was born will have no bearing on whether he’s a good representative for the district, he said. He moved to Horry county because of the opportunities it offered for business and to enjoy life, he said, and he’s vested in the community.

“So, take that off the table,” he said.

“Yes, seven years ago I got a speeding ticket,” he confessed with mock seriousness. And the stray animal comment was blown out of proportion.

He said its always his personality that opponents attack and never his record, which should tell voters something.

Bauer also makes sure voters know Rice said in a forum in Pawleys Island last month that he would add to the federal deficit to get the Georgetown port dredged if that was the only way. Rice called dredging an investment that would help raise revenue to cut the deficit.

“I think with respect to the major national issues, we’re going to say pretty much the same thing,” Rice said. “What it really comes down to is a matter of character at this point. He says I’m a moderate, but I say I’m a lot more conservative than he is.”

But Bauer said it comes down to each candidate’s voting record and that’s where voters should look before heading to the polls on Tuesday.

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