Beaufort News

Redistricting plan brings Port Royal, Lady's Island a new state senator

State Sen. Chip Campsen won't have the opportunity to represent Beaufort County until new district maps take effect after the 2012 election - and only then if voters return him to office.

But the 52-year-old Republican says he's excited by the prospect.

"All my life, I've spent a lot of time in the ACE basin, a lot of time in Beaufort County," Campsen said. "This is the most beautiful Senate district on the east coast of this nation."

Under the proposed map passed by the S.C. Legislature, District 43 -- currently held by Campsen -- stretches down the coast from his residence on the Isle of Palms, north of Charleston Harbor, to the Broad River. In the process, it picks up much of northern Beaufort County, including Port Royal and Lady's and Fripp islands.

Campsen, a veteran state legislator, said he plans to run for reelection next November.

That means he'll have a little more than a year to introduce himself to new Lowcountry constituents.

Beaufort County voters will have the same amount of time -- and next year's legislative session -- to watch, weigh, and make up their minds.


Every 10 years, after the U.S. Census Bureau releases new population data, political lines must be redrawn so each district holds the same number of people.

Divide South Carolina's 4.6 million people into 46 state senate districts, and each must represent about 100,000.

Because of booming growth in the Lowcountry, the district of state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, is about 31,000 people over the population target under the current map.

That extra population might logically be shifted into the district of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, who represents Dale and St. Helena Island. But Pinckney's seat is a minority-majority district, and the 1965 Voting Rights Act prohibits intentionally diluting such districts' minority populations.

"The only option was to bring someone from Charleston down," Campsen said.

The Senate passed the new map 37-1 on third reading and submitted it in July to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has a maximum of 120 days to decide if it meets federal requirements.


Campsen is president of SpiritLine Cruises, which operates the boats that take visitors to Fort Sumter, as well as private charter boats and dinner excursions. He holds a 100-ton captain's license from the U.S. Coast Guard, and spent college summers running passenger vessels for the company, which his father started in 1961.

He attended The Citadel and Furman University before earning a law degree and MBA from the University of South Carolina.

Campsen was elected to the S.C. House of Representatives in 1996, where he served with Beaufort's former state Rep. Edie Rodgers.

Rodgers remembers him as a "true conservative," an effective legislator and an unassuming personality.

"I never ever saw Chip Campsen lose his cool or do anything out of order. He always went about getting things done in the right way -- as a gentleman," she said. "I just could never say enough good things about him."

In 2002, Campsen honored a term-limit pledge and did not seek reelection. He co-chaired former Gov. Mark Sanford's transition team before running for the S.C. Senate in 2004.

The new district is logical, he says, because residents in the Port Royal and Charleston areas share similar interests, including a concern for their coastal environments.

Campsen, who describes himself as a lifelong outdoorsman, authored the bill that created the S.C. Conservation Bank, and he cites that as a key legislative success. The bank has preserved more than 150,000 acres since 2004, including 5 parcels totaling 5,790 acres in Beaufort County.

Follow reporter Kyle Peterson at

Related content:

Parts of northern Beaufort County could get new state senator, June 2, 2011