Endangered species: White S.C. Democrats

February 8, 2011

By GINA SMITH -The State

Each Tuesday morning, Harry Ott tries to rally Democrats before they hit the S.C. House floor to battle with Republicans.

“These Republicans are not introducing bills that would create a single job in South Carolina,” Ott, the House minority leader, bellowed to the dozen or so Democratic House members at a recent meeting. “We’re gonna call them out on it.”

Twenty years ago, white Democrats like Ott, a St. Matthews farmer with a Southern drawl as thick as syrup, controlled the House.

Today, Ott is an anomaly.

White Democrats are a nearly extinct breed in the House.

Of 124 House members, only 19 are white Democrats. A 20th, state Rep. Cathy Harvin, who represented Clarendon and Williamsburg counties, died in December.

When redistricting, the once-in-a-decade redrawing of state House and Senate district lines, happens later this year, many lawmakers predict white House Democrats will number fewer than 10. Most at risk are those white Democrats who now represent districts in the Pee Dee.

The 10 white Democrats in the Senate, who retain some influence even today because of that institution’s rules, are expected to fare better in redistricting.

African-American Democrats, who now hold 28 House seats and nine Senate seats, also are likely to retain their numbers, in part, because redistricting rules, in response to historic discrimination in the South, require the preservation of districts where a majority of voters are black.

“When you make a rule that protects one group of legislators, even if it’s for a good reason, it will be at the expense of another group of legislators,” said state Rep. Ted Vick, a white Democrat who represents Chesterfield County in the Pee Dee. “In South Carolina, that’s white Democrats.”

To read more, visit: http://www.thestate.com/2011/02/06/1680991/endangered-species-white-sc-democrats.html#ixzz1DMrVa1Lv

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