Lowcountry district plan suffers setback in Senate

State Senate action this week dimmed hopes for a new congressional district anchored in the Lowcountry.

The plan that came out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and gained approval in the full Senate on Thursday, with a tie-breaking vote from Lt. Gov. Ken Ard, carves a seventh district out of the state's northeast corner.

State Sen. Tom Davis of Beaufort and other Lowcountry lawmakers fought for a Lowcountry district, but to no avail so far.

Debate continues next week, but it's hard to see how such a substantive change can be achieved with the plan that's been approved as the baseline.

Davis says he and other Lowcountry lawmakers have allies from the rural Pee Dee area, who aren't happy with being thrown in with attention-getting Myrtle Beach.

Our political hearts skipped a beat when we first saw the proposed plan for a Lowcountry7th District. We've been an outlier in the 2nd District, which stretches all the way to Lexington County near Columbia, for two decades now.

Or as Davis put it, "For too long, Beaufort County has always been the red-headed stepchild ... We've been the tail end of a Charleston district. And then in recent history, we've been the tail end of a Lexington district."

The Davis-backed plan puts Beaufort, Jasper, Hampton, Colleton, Dorchester and Berkeley counties into the new district.

About half of its 660,769 residents would live near Charleston, in Dorchester and Berkeley counties. But about a third would live in Beaufort and its neighboring counties.

Davis says that another hurdle for this plan is that it's so materially different from the House-approved plan that it would be difficult to reconcile the two. That could send congressional redistricting to federal court.

While we're not holding out a lot of hope for the Lowcountry plan after Thursday's Senate vote, there still is a bright spot in this process.

The House plan and the Senate plan up for debate put most of Beaufort County in a coastal 1st District. That at least gets us in a district whose interests more closely align with our own. Efforts to rejoin the 1st District failed in 2001.

The 2nd District has never been a good fit despite the best intentions of Reps. Joe Wilson and Floyd Spence, whom Wilson replaced when Spence died in 2001.

Better to be the tail end of a coastal district than the tail end of a Midlands-dominated district.