WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — South Carolina's 2nd Congressional District has been in Republican hands for more than 50 years, but Democrats see 2020 as their best chance in decades to try to turn the conservative area from red to blue.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson will face Democratic challenger Adair Ford Boroughs, a political newcomer among the better-financed candidates who have sought to oust him during his nearly two-decade congressional career.
Also running are Sonny Narang for the Alliance Party and Constitution Party candidate Kathleen Wright.
Wilson is seeking his 10th term in the district, which extends from the suburbs of Columbia through staunchly Republican Lexington County and into Aiken. In 2016, voters there favored Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton by about 18 percentage points.
Boroughs, 40, is an attorney and legal advocate who frequently mentions her modest beginnings, referencing her path from childhood in a double-wide trailer to education at Furman University, then Stanford Law School. She has touted herself as a young, energetic candidate who wants to shake up the status quo, tapping into national Democratic frustration.
In Boroughs' campaign, South Carolina Democrats see the possibility of repeating the success of 2018, when 1st District candidate Joe Cunningham became the first Democrat in more than 30 years to flip a South Carolina House seat from red to blue.
The demographics of the 1st District, though, differ drastically from the 2nd. Stretching along the coastal areas of Charleston and Beaufort, the 1st District has experienced an influx of retirees from more liberal parts of the country who have brought their politics with them over the years.
In terms of fundraising, Boroughs has several times bested Wilson in quarterly filings, raising more than $2 million over the course of her campaign.
“I am a daughter of this district, and all I want is to do right by it,” Boroughs said earlier this month at her only debate with Wilson.
Wilson has brought in roughly $1.5 million over the course of the campaign.
Manifesting in a slew of television ads and relentless campaigning across the district, much of Boroughs' effort has been centered around raising her profile, given the longevity and high name recognition of her opponent, who was first elected to the U.S. House in 2001 and previously served 17 years in the South Carolina Senate.
Wilson, 73, has kept a relatively low profile since a brief brush with national infamy when he yelled “You lie!” at President Barack Obama during a speech before a 2009 joint session of Congress.
Aside from promoting her own biography and background, Boroughs has castigated Wilson for failing to achieve significant legislative progress, accusing him of flaunting achievements only pursued as he faces a significant opponent. In their debate, as Wilson heralded his bipartisan work on rural broadband access, Boroughs said the district needs “someone who shows up and handles these problems every single day, not once every decade when they finally have a competitive race.”
If she were to win, Boroughs would be only the second woman elected to a full term in the U.S. House in South Carolina.
For his part, Wilson has at times aimed to strike a bipartisan tone, saying during the debate that he agreed with Boroughs on issues including the need for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic and also commending the mayor of Columbia, Democrat Steve Benjamin, for coordinating his city's response.
Wilson, who has been an ardent supporter of President Trump, notably said he disagreed with the administration's commitment for a speedy withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan and, again, agreed with Boroughs in a more gradual drawdown.
Otherwise, Wilson has advocated for Trump's proposals including strengthening barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border and stressed his experience on foreign policy issues. On Tuesday, he told The Associated Press that he feels confident about his reelection, noting that Boroughs has been a more well-funded opponent than those in his past.
“I feel very good,” Wilson said. “I feel very comfortable with the communities that I represent. I've made a point to get to them, and I always do. The environment is very positive."
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.