A Fort Mill Democrat is banking on moderate voters tired of what he calls dysfunction in Congress to win over a Republican stronghold in this year’s Fifth Congressional District election. Fort Mill Town Councilman Tom Adams has filed to run against Republican incumbent Mick Mulvaney of Indian Land in the district that includes York, Chester and Lancaster counties. Mulvaney, who defeated longtime Democrat John Spratt in 2010, said he plans to seek a third term. If re-elected, Mulvaney said he would push issues like continued job growth, spending cuts and healthcare reform – as well as smaller issues that specifically affect his constituency such as government regulation of community banks and credit unions. Adams, who manages an automotive dealership, filed with the state Elections Commission last week. He is running a pro-business campaign that emphasizes “compromise” and “coalition.” The filing period closes Sunday. “You have to build coalitions and build relationships with your colleagues,” Adams said of his current position representing Ward 4 in Fort Mill. “That means you don’t always get things your way.”
The 55-year-old councilman said the same principles apply to Congress. “We cannot kick the art of compromise to the curb,” Adams said, adding that conservative Tea Party members don’t want to compromise. As a Congressman, Adams said he would focus on tax and regulation reform geared toward making the U.S. more business-friendly. He’s also a supporter of strengthening the military and providing greater support for veterans. All of those issues, plus Adams’ promise to reach across party lines, have similarly been espoused by U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who is facing several primary challengers this June.
“They’re afraid they’re going to be branded a ‘RINO’ and voted out of the party,” Adams said of today’s Republican candidates, referring to the term “Republican in Name Only,” which denotes GOP candidates who are politically moderate or liberal. “We need to have somebody that doesn’t have that threat hanging above their head.” But Adams admitted that winning the Congressional district, which includes a strong tea party presence in York County, will be “tough.” “It’s no secret this is a very conservative area, but I’m an extremely moderate guy,” Adams said. The candidate said he began seriously considering a run when his wife died a few years ago after a battle with an autoimmune disease. Adams is a longtime member of the First Baptist Church in Fort Mill, and has three grown children – including a daughter who attends Winthrop University. Adams said raising enough campaign funds and generating name recognition to match Mulvaney’s will be “a big hurdle,” but that he is better suited to represent the region’s needs. “His voting record is in lockstep with the Tea Party,” Adams said of Mulvaney. “There’s a lot more people in this district than the tea party.”
The Incumbency Advantage
Mulvaney boasts more political experience than Adams, including terms in both the S.C. House and Senate.
He reported having more than $222,000 of cash on hand for his re-election bid at the end of 2013, according to the Federal Election Commission. During local town halls organized by his office, Mulvaney has been outspoken about his opposition to the federal Affordable Care Act and the Congressional stalemate between Republicans and Democrats that culminated in a 16-day government shutdown in October. “I got elected first and foremost to help stop some of the things happening in the country,” Mulvaney said, including the federal bailout and the Affordable Care Act. He said he doesn’t agree that the tea party is a group that only supports candidates who don’t compromise. Mulvaney said he often visits groups outside his base of support such as the NAACP or local Hispanic voters. “I take my job as a representative very seriously,” said Mulvaney. “I go to see a lot of groups that don’t necessarily like me.” But, he added, “that doesn’t mean I’m going to vote in a way that makes everybody happy all the time.” As a congressman, he has been outspoken about cutting the federal budget, often appearing on national news networks. A lawyer, Mulvaney, 46, has owned a small homebuilding company and a restaurant. He and his wife, Pamela, are the parents of triplets. He has been a member of St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Fort Mill and a founding member of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Mission, according to his congressional website.