Rep. Brown’s departure has Ketner taking a second look

Rep. Brown’s departure has Ketner taking a second look

Rep. Henry Brown Jr.’s (R-S.C.) decision to retire at the end of his term has raised Democrats’ hopes of picking up the seat, especially if businesswoman Linda Ketner enters the race.

In an interview with The Hill, Ketner said Brown’s pending departure has created a “new environment” and she’s going to make a decision “within the next week” about whether to enter the race.

In 2008, Ketner gave the five-term congressman the closest race of his career and came within 14,000 votes of unseating Brown in a conservative-leaning district. She initially said she wouldn’t run again in 2010, but his retirement has her reconsidering.

Meanwhile, the Republican primary is shaping up to be a crowded field, albeit one with a big name missing.

State Rep. Timothy Scott, who is the first black Republican to serve in the State Legislature since Reconstruction, considered abandoning his campaign for lieutenant governor and running for Brown’s seat instead. But Scott, whose Legislature district includes Charleston County, has decided to stay the course, according to his campaign.

“Any wise person would take a look at opportunities as they arise and that’s exactly what he did yesterday,” Joe McKeown, Scott’s campaign manager, told The Hill. “The best way for him to serve the citizens of South Carolina right now is for him to serve them as their lieutenant governor.” He added,

“It’s final. We’re moving full steam ahead in the direction we were heading.”

Still, Democrats are expecting the fight for the GOP nomination to hobble the eventual nominee.

Before Brown announced his retirement, he faced a primary challenge from businessman Carroll “Tumpy” Campbell III, the son of the legendary Gov. Carroll Campbell Jr.

“They’re going to battle it out and come out bloodied and bruised and battered and broke. You put all that together and we’ve got a shot to pick up the seat,” said a Democratic strategist who requested anonymity to speak candidly about the race.

Republicans scoffed at the notion that an intensely fought primary would cripple their candidate in the general.

“That might be a concern for the Democrats,” said Joel Sawyer, a spokesman for the South Carolina Republican Party. “Republican donations in this state are not nearly as hard to come by as they are on the other side. We think the vigorous primary process certainly bodes well for our prospects of keeping the seat.”

 Besides Campbell, the Republican primary field is made up of Isle of Palms Councilman Ryan Buckhannon and former Brown staffer Katherine Jenerette.
And attorney Paul Thurmond, the son of longtime Sen. Strom Thurmond, is exploring a bid.

“It could definitely be a free-for-all,” said Heather Ammons, a state GOP executive committeewoman from Horry County.

Other officials say that a favorite has already emerged. “Of all the candidates, I would have to think that Carroll Campbell is the front-runner,” said Lin Bennett, chairwoman of the Charleston County GOP.

Not only will the eventual GOP nominee have to get through a crowded primary, but he or she will have to contend with being lumped together with disgraced Gov. Mark Sanford (R).

“No matter who they put up, [the] South Carolina GOP is not exactly the best brand in the world right now,” the Democratic strategist said, comparing it to “dog food.”

Voters won’t care about Sanford come November, Republicans contend.

“We think that voters in South Carolina are interested in moving past the governor,” said Sawyer, who once worked for Sanford. “There’s tremendous blowback against the Democrats in Washington right now, the way they’re spending our tax dollars without regard for future generations. It is issues that elections are going to be won and lost on.”

The national environment is a concern for Ketner.

“That there’s a backlash [against Washington] is probably a very distinct reality in this race,” she said, adding that both parties could be affected. “To me,

it’s not just a backlash against Democrats, it’s a backlash against the way we do things in politics today.”

One of the whisper issues in the 2008 race was the fact that Ketner is a lesbian. Although Brown didn’t make her sexual orientation an issue, he did attack her for her support of gay marriage. Meanwhile, Ketner benefited from her family fortune. She spent close to $2.2 million on the race, half of it her own money.

Asked what she would contribute to her campaign this cycle, Ketner said: “Very little.”

Instead, she would expect some help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) and other national Democrats. “I would expect that they would help more [than last time],” she said. “I think at this point they know I’m a hardworking candidate.”

Ketner was a member of the DCCC’s Red to Blue program in 2008.


An official with the DCCC declined to comment about any funding that would be available in 2010, saying that those decisions would be made at a later date.

Ketner would have some competition for the nomination.

Air Force Col. Robert Burton is running on the Democratic side. Robert Barber, who was the Democratic nominee for lieutenant governor in 2006, is also being mentioned as a possible candidate.