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Election 2012: Democrat hopes to make history in more than one way

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Gloria Bromell Tinubu brought a copy of her high school newspaper, The Choppee Gazette, to a fundraiser in Georgetown last month.

The yellowed paper was from 1970, and her picture was on the front page along with a story about her being elected president of the student council at age 17. A classmate had given her the paper earlier in the day.

She hopes to make headlines again as the first member of Congress from South Carolina’s new 7th District.

“We had a community of people who cared for us,” Tinubu told supporters at The Carolinian motel. “Teachers and parents saw our potential and refused to let us fail. We celebrated everything that was about community and that our young people were prepared.”

Tinubu’s father had only a third-grade education. “He couldn’t help me with my homework,” she said, “but he picked me up from basketball practice.”

Her mother only went through the fifth grade and worked as a maid for Robert Grissom before he was mayor of Myrtle Beach. “In just one generation,” Tinubu said, “look what is possible.”

Tinubu is one of “the jewels from Choppee High School,” said Sara Hudson, president of the Georgetown County Democratic Women’s Council, during her introduction. Tinubu is running against Horry County Republican Tom Rice.

Tinubu has a doctorate in applied economics and is a professor at Coastal Carolina University. But she emphasized her rural roots — she was born at Brookgreen and reared in Plantersville — and her struggle to succeed as the basis for her campaign in the new congressional district that covers eight counties, most of them rural in nature. She said South Carolina Gov. Dick Riley made her education possible, extending opportunity to women and minorities.

Tinubu said her husband, Soji Tinubu, a Nigerian-born U.S. citizen, had a master’s degree in civil engineering but could only find work cooking pizzas in the lingering Jim Crow era in South Carolina. He found a job in Atlanta, and she decided to keep learning about the rural economy, heirs property, community water systems and other issues that affected people while serving on the Atlanta City Council and in the Georgia Legislature.

“In 1970,” Tinubu said, “we had it right. We must invest in education, including adult education. South Carolina can not brag about ‘right to work’ for poverty wages. We should be ashamed the way wages have declined. South Carolina is at the bottom of any measurement that’s good. Our children depend on us to do something about it.

“The third leg, along with education and good jobs, is affordable health care. We can not have productive workers or students if they are not healthy. My opponent wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act. We can not let that happen. Of the eight counties in our new district, seven are poor. We must assure that people have access to affordable health care.”

Tinubu returned to her old school newspaper and remembered the year she turned 17.

“By that age,” she said, “we’re really who we are. Neither your parents nor the government can be responsible. You are responsible for yourself. Support might be necessary, but at the end of the day we get to choose. You choose.”

Gladys McCoy asked Tinubu how she planned to overcome her “three strikes” of being a woman, being African-American and being well educated in a world dominated by white men.

Tinubu said she’s spent a lifetime talking to the rich and powerful. “Talk about their grandchildren,” she said, “and they melt like sugar.”

Tinubu is pushing for a strong turnout. She challenged Georgetown County to come in with 14,000 votes for her.

She won the county in the June primary and the subsequent runoff with Preston Brittain. The close margin caused some to question whether Tinubu had the backing of the party leaders.

Democrats are unified, she said. “As a party, we have coalesced. Don’t believe what you read in the papers. You have embraced me despite all the noise.”

South Carolina has elected just five women to Congress. Tinubu would be the first in 20 years.

Election 2012: Republican isn’t taking any chances in ‘safe’ district

By Jason Lesley
Coastal Observer

Tom Rice never stops selling the benefits of South Carolina.

On a tour of the Capitol after a fund-raiser in Washington, D.C., last month, the Republican candidate for the state’s new 7th Congressional District met House Majority Leader John Boehner chain-smoking in his office and invited him to visit the district.

Boehner politely declined.

“We’ve got 100 golf courses,” Rice said, knowing the majority leader’s weakness.

The hook was set. Boehner came to Myrtle Beach as a side trip while visiting Wilmington, and Rice got to spend four hours with the man he hopes to work with for the next two years in Congress. Rice called Boehner “a down-to-earth person who cares about people.”

Rice told his Boehner anecdote during an appearance at the Waccamaw Neck Republican Women’s Club last month. It followed what he called his standard stump speech where he painted his Democratic challenger in the 7th District, Gloria Bromell Tinubu, as a socialist to the left of President Obama.

“We face a critical election,” Rice told the group’s members.

“The Declaration of Independence was signed by people opposed to a repressive government,” he said. “The tendency of government to grow over time has gotten away from what was intended. Government is in every aspect of our lives.”

Rice cited the Dodd-Frank bank regulation bill, Obamacare and the EPA forcing the closure of coal-fired electrical plants as what’s wrong with America.

“Dodd-Frank means less competition. Obamacare means less competition. All these things have consequences,” Rice said.

Tinubu supports all the competition killers, he said.

Rice said Obama is a socialist, and Tinubu is “further than a socialist.”

These are scary times, Rice said.

“For taxes vote Obama and Tinubu. For prosperity vote Romney and Rice. For regulations, she’ll get there and say we need more regulations. If you want bigger government, vote Obama and Tinubu; smaller government, Romney, Ryan and Rice.”

The congressional hopeful felt cleared to go hard right to the Republican women. He was preaching to the conservative choir. He will get all the conservatives’ votes in this new seven-county district stretching from Georgetown to Chesterfield and Marlboro counties. It’s moderates that he may need.

Rice himself is evidence that the 7th District is not as conservative as some of the other districts in the state. He defeated former Lt. Gov. André Bauer in a runoff following a nine-way Republican race.

Bauer called the 7th “a Republican district” and it stands to reason: It was drawn by a Republican dominated legislature. But there are vast swaths of an ill-defined political landscape in the district.

Rice has certainly not taken victory for granted.

He has raised more than twice as much money as Tinubu. As of the quarterly filing with the Federal Election Commission, the Rice campaign had brought in more than $1.2 million. In addition he has loaned his campaign $100,000. Tinubu’s campaign has raised just under $534,000, the majority of which came from Tinubu herself, a $300,000 loan.

Not surprisingly, Tinubu has tried to turn her opponent’s monetary advantage on its head by saying his successful cash flow has been the result of “backroom deals,” to quote a recent campaign advertisement, with his wealthy friends and business partners.

Rice keeps acting like a front-runner while refuting Tinubu’s accusations with stories about his roles in community projects like Myrtle Beach Haven, a shelter for homeless families. He plans to end his campaign with a bus tour of the district.

“I feel good about our chances,” he said.

To learn more about Tuesday’s election, there is a sample ballot online.

To check your voter registration information, go to the state Election Commission website.

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