Charleston County councilman Paul Thurmond’s plan to return his family name to the halls of the Capitol tonight has hit a snag in the form of an African American tea party candidate. Thurmond, son of Palmetto state legend Strom, had hoped to win the state’s 1st District seat in Congress. But that was before state Rep. Tim Scott got in the Republican primary, forcing Thurmond into a runoff tonight that the Washington Post reports Thurmond’s expected to lose.
Scott has the backing of many prominent Republicans, including possible 2012 presidential contenders Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee. That he will probably win tonight is not really much of a shock — he dominated the nine-candidate Republican primary June 8, taking home 31% of the vote. Thurmond came in second with 16%. The race, which will decide who replaces retiring Rep. Harry Brown (R), is expected to go to the GOP in November.
Surprise may not be in order here, based on the primary results. But, as the Post reports, there is another word to describe Scott’s front-runner status: “irony.”
That irony comes on several levels. First, though Scott “has positioned himself as the more conservative candidate,” the Post spoke to conservative activists on the ground who “resent” Scott’s national support. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor has donated to Scott’s campaign and the paper reports that many in the GOP establishment are amped up about the possibility of gaining the first African American Representative since J.C. Watts (OK) retired in 2003.
That national excitement is earning Scott the predictable grumbling from some tea party types in South Carolina.
“The RNC is so hyped up to have the first African American in however many years,” a Myrtle Beach tea partier tells the Post. “We don’t have anything against minorities, we just don’t think he is the best fit.”
When Thurmond got in the race, back in January, he tried to tap into the conservative frustration dominating the cycle this year as well. But Scott grabbed the tea party mantle (and the support of related groups like the Club For Growth) with attacks on conservative bogeymen like earmarks.
The rest, it seems, is about to be history. And that brings us to the second irony of the race, as reported by the Post:
“When Scott began to draw support, few people believed a black man could win in South Carolina against an opponent named Thurmond,” the paper reports. “It’s not a question that’s discussed much now.”