Elections

Miller camp silent on possbility of a third try at Congress

The camp of defeated Democratic congressional candidate Rob Miller has no word on whether the Marine veteran will again seek office after losing Tuesday to incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson for the second time.

Jay Parmley, executive director for the S.C. Democratic Party, said he expects Miller will remain politically active in the Palmetto State.

"I don't know what form that will take," Parmley said. "But they need some time to decide what they'll do next."

Numerous attempts to reach the Miller campaign Wednesday and Thursday were unsuccessful. Miller, of Lady's Island, has never held an elected office.

He mounted his second challenge to Wilson, R-West Columbia, before Wilson's "You lie!" outburst during President Barack Obama's health care address to Congress last year. That incident sent a torrent of cash from across the country flowing into both camps, breaking a state record for a congressional campaign. With more than $7 million in funds raised, it counted among the most expensive races of the 2010 campaign season.

The infusion raised Miller's profile, but it didn't help him close the gap.

He fell to Wilson by 11 percentage points Tuesday, according to unofficial results, but he lost by just 8 percentage points in 2008.

Should he try a third run for Congress in 2012, Wilson might not be his opponent. New census figures will bring reapportionment of political boundaries and possibly a seventh S.C. seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. Even if the Palmetto State doesn't gain a House seat, district lines are likely to be redrawn.

And at least one analyst thinks those lines might be more favorable to a Democratic candidacy in Wilson's district.

University of South Carolina political science professor Mark Tompkins said Wilson's apparent vulnerability in the past two elections could make him the odd man out among the state's five Republican congressmen. He believes a Republican-majority state legislature will be more interested in ensuring the re-election of the state's four freshman Republican congressmen: Tim Scott, District 1; Jeff Duncan, District 3; Trey Gowdy, District 4; and Mick Mulvaney, District 5.

State lawmakers must await census figures expected to be released in December before considering changes to district boundaries.

"Those four districts are high priorities for the leadership to draw good strong Republican districts around. And that leaves Wilson as the leftover," Tompkins said. "He probably gets the areas that nobody else is anxious to have. He might get more Democrats than he wants in that process."

State and county Democratic leaders disagree.

Beaufort County Democratic Party Chairman Blaine Lotz said any redistricting decided by a Republican-controlled process likely won't benefit Democrats. Parmley, of the state Democratic Party, believes all Republican congressmen are on equal footing when it comes to bids for more favorable districts.

"I think they're all going to fight, and that's fine with me," Parmley said. "Let 'em fight."

On the other hand, state GOP Chairman Karen Floyd said she doesn't think redistricting is a political process that congressmen can influence. She said the state legislature has strict rules for redrawing lines, and she is confident it will be fair.

Wilson is pushing for the new district to be drawn around Myrtle Beach and encompass Republican neighborhoods in Florence, which has experienced explosive population growth. He has told state lawmakers he wants to hold on to his borders in Lexington and Beaufort counties, he said, and will lobby further when the census figures are published.

"There's so many different points of view," Wilson said. "I'm expressing mine, and when you mention redistricting, certainly everyone gets involved."

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