South Carolina’s Democratic Party has taken the unusual step of endorsing only one of its two candidates running for Congress in the district that includes Columbia and Aiken.
SCDP Chairman Jaime Harrison released a statement last week backing former SmartState manager Arik Bjorn in the race against Republican Congressman Joe Wilson, calling his fellow Democratic challenger Phil Black a “fake Democrat” who has run as a Republican in three previous elections.
“The SCDP typically does not endorse candidates during the primary, but this is a unique situation and requires unique and bold action and leadership,” Harrison said in a statement.
It is believed to be only the second time in recent history the SCDP has specifically endorsed one Democratic candidate over another in the same race. The last time was 2014, when State Sen. Brad Hutto made an unsuccessful run to oppose Republican US Sen. Lindsey Graham. The party backed Hutto that year over Jay Stamper, a businessman who had recently moved to the state from Washington and had several conviction on
Wilson is a heavy favorite to win reelection in the conservative-leaning district. But Black still shocked Democratic Party leaders when he won the party’s 2014 nomination by effectively running to the right of Wilson. His positions included advocating the breakup of the Federal Reserve and bringing the Bible back into schools. Black had previously run against Wilson as a Republican in the 2010 and 2012 GOP primaries, losing by large margins each time.
Bjorn hopes the endorsement gives a sign to unsure voters who don’t know either candidate. “The average voter walks into a booth on June 14 and assumes there are two decent Democrats on the ballot and whichever one they choose if they don’t know about the other will be okay,” he told South Carolina Radio Network. “Well, that is not the case this year.”
Black, a Barnwell hardware store owner, defends his conservative views. He told the Columbia Free Times that he believes his positions should represent “should represent all the people, not just one party” in the Republican-leaning district.
Bjorn is a Columbia librarian who formerly managed the S.C. “SmartState” economic development and industrial research program. Bjorn believes his message can turn out voters from both parties, although he admits donations so far have not been as steady as he would like.
“Republicans and Democrats alike drive over the same potholes, come up to the same broken bridges, have problems in the same dilapidated airports,” he said. “The infrastructure needs to be put into place and invested… and ‘status quo’ Joe Wilson doesn’t care one iota.”
The Democratic primary for the Second District nomination will on Tuesday, June 14.