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Inglis’ Quiet Comeback

Ex-South Carolina Rep. Heavily Favored To Win Back Old Seat

In a race that has largely been overshadowed by the South Carolina Republican Senate primary, former Rep. Bob Inglis (R) appears likely to reclaim his old 4th district seat next month.

“Things are coming along nicely,” Inglis said in an interview Monday.

Six years ago Inglis himself was his party’s nominee against Sen. Fritz Hollings (D) and seen as one of Republicans’ best chances to defeat a Democratic incumbent that cycle.

Inglis lost that race 53 percent to 46 percent, in the process becoming a rising star in state politics without a natural next job.

He declared his candidacy to reclaim his Up State 4th district soon after the 2002 election, when current 4th district Rep. — and Inglis protégé — Jim DeMint (R) said he would run for the Senate.

Inglis said his decision to enter this race early, which he credited to his experiences in the Senate election, was crucial in keeping other big-name Republicans out of the race.

State Rep. Lewis Vaughn, and William Herlong, a Greenville school board trustee, considered the race before deciding against a run.

While Inglis’ early declaration coupled with his six years representing the district in the mid-1990s immediately established him as the frontrunner to replace DeMint, it did not keep other Republicans out of the race.

Former Public Service Commissioner and 2002 Republican primary candidate Phil Bradley, former state Rep. Carole Wells and retired businessman Jack Adams also filed for the contest.

Inglis said he initially expected “six or eight” Republicans to run and said he was surprised by the smaller GOP field.

Two Democrats — funeral home executive Brandon Brown and former Capitol Police Officer Andrew Wittman — are also running, though they have little chance given the district’s strong Republican tilt. President Bush won 66 percent there in 2000.

Both parties will hold primaries June 8; if no candidate receives 50 percent the two top votegetters advance to a June 22 runoff.

As the race has progressed, Inglis has used his connections in Washington, D.C., to establish a huge financial lead that recently forced Bradley out of the contest.

Through March, Inglis had raised $412,000 for the race with $271,000 still on hand.

Bradley, who carried name recognition from his 2002 primary challenge to DeMint — in which he took 38 percent — had just $4,000 in the bank on March 31; he departed the race a week later, citing an inability to raise the money necessary to win.

Wells, who is considered Inglis’ most serious remaining Republican opponent, had raised a paltry $25,000 for the race at the end of March with just $10,000 in the bank.

She acknowledged that her fundraising has been “a little less than I thought,” but added: “[Inglis] has the most money but I have an army of volunteers.”

Although this district is an extremely inexpensive one in which to advertise —Greenville-Spartanburg is the dominant media market — the slow fundraising by all of the candidates is primarily attributable to the crowded Senate field.

DeMint, along with former Gov. David Beasley, former state Attorney General Charlie Condon and real estate developer Thomas Ravenel are all seeking the Republican nomination.

State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum is the overwhelming favorite on the Democratic side.

All four serious Republicans have raised well more than $1 million for the race; DeMint had $1.5 million on hand at the end of March, Beasley had $1.1 million in his bank account and Condon had $950,000.

Ravenel is self-financing his campaign, having given himself $1 million.

The Senate race “has drained a lot of money,” acknowledged Wells.

Not only has the Senate primary overshadowed the 4th district race from a financial perspective, it also has dominated the media and activist communities’ attention.

Inglis has been the largest beneficiary of the lack of attention to the Congressional election.

Much like his House campaigns and Senate bid, Inglis is running an unorthodox race.

To cut costs, he is running the campaign out of his house and has not hired any professional consultants.

He continues to refuse money from political action committees but has reneged on pledging to limit his terms in office. In 1992, Inglis took a three-term-limit pledge, which led him into the Senate race in 1998.

“The benefit is that having run races before you have some experience and you know where overhead can eat you alive,” he said.

Despite Inglis’ nontraditional approach, he seems likely to coast into office as Wells, who entered the race to much fanfare, has done little to distinguish herself.

She has an impressive résumé that includes a 10-year stint in the South Carolina state House and is in her second four-year term on the South Carolina Employment Security Commission.

Wells has close ties to the socially conservative wing of the Republican Party, as she was the original founder of Palmetto State’s Christian Coalition chapter.

“I have a proven record, and my record will stand against anybody’s,” she maintained.

Wells has done little to distinguish her candidacy, however.

Her anemic fundraising virtually ensures she will not be able to afford an ad campaign to raise her name identification with the district’s voters.

When asked about his opponent, Inglis offered a kind word, saying she is “out there working hard,” noting that both she and her husband have been focusing heavily on campaign yard signs to this point.

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