Beaufort News

S.C. Senate OKs new congressional districted anchored in Beaufort County

Staff and wire reports

COLUMBIA -- The state Senate gave final approval Wednesday to a plan anchoring South Carolina's new 7th congressional district in Beaufort County.

The boundaries of the new district, to be created as a result of population growth, still must be considered by the House of Representatives.

The House, however, wants the new district in the northeastern corner of the state surrounding the Myrtle Beach area.

Republican leaders in the Senate cautioned members against putting the new district in the Lowcountry -- far from where the House wants it -- but senators approved the Beaufort-centric district by a 25-15 vote.

Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort and a strong supporter of the Lowcountry district, said the region "has been split and the forgotten tail-end" of other congressional districts for too long.

Davis repeated that he does not favor the Lowcountry district because it would give him an entrèe to run for Congress.

"I will not run for it," he said. "Instead, I will run for re-election as Beaufort County's state senator in 2012. I am just starting to get some traction at the State House on things I care about -- government restructuring, equitable school funding, tax reform, spending cap, the Jasper port, et cetera."

The chairman of Beaufort County's legislative delegation, Rep. Bill Herbkersman, R- Bluffton, said he would support the Lowcountry district when the House considers it.

"I absolutely support the Senate version," Herbkersman said. "It's a good plan for our part of the Lowcountry, because it gives us more focused representation than the (House) plan."

Under the Senate's plan, the district would include Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Allendale, Barnwell, Bamberg, Colleton, Dorchester, Berkeley, Williamsburg and part of Georgetown counties.

House and Senate negotiators will try to compromise on the location and configuration of the new district before the legislature reconvenes July 26. Senate President Pro Tem Glenn McConnell has said he doubts the House will accept a district in the Lowcountry.

If the two chambers can't agree, the issue would be turned over to a panel of three federal judges to resolve.