5th District race draws some national attention – The State

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More national attention is being focused on South Carolina’s special election in the 5th District congressional district, pitting Republican Ralph Norman against Democrat Archie Parnell.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley will appear with fellow Democrat Parnell in Rock Hill Saturday, along with Tom Perez, chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

O’Malley ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 and may be planning another bid in 2020. The former governor’s visit to South Carolina, an early-voting primary state, also includes a speech at a Greenville Democratic dinner.

The intervention of Democratic outsiders in the 5th District — Republican since 2010 — failed to impress Republicans.

Maddie Anderson with the National Republican Congressional Committee called it an “odd strategy” to have a “few faces of the Resistance movement campaigning for a Democrat vying for a seat in a ruby-red district.”

“Clearly, this is the best Archie Parnell could do,” she said, “A token pat on the head from Democratic ‘leadership.’ ”

However, GOP nominee Norman, a former state representative, has enjoyed the support of outside supporters, too.

Republican U.S Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, another former presidential candidate who may be looking ahead to 2020 or 2024, campaigned for Norman before his GOP primary win over state Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York.

It is unclear if Cruz plans another run through South Carolina before the June 20 Norman-Parnell primary.

Will they or won’t they?

With just two-plus weeks to go until that special election, both major party candidates are campaigning across the 11-county district, which includes part of all of Newberry, Fairfield, Kershaw and Sumter counties in the Midlands.

But it is unclear if Norman of Rock Hill and Parnell of Sumter will debate.

Norman may have little incentive to risk a face-to-face meeting.

Twice as many Republicans voted in May’s GOP primary as in the Democratic contest, and even Parnell’s polls show the libertarian, Tea Party-leaning Republican leading by 10 percentage points.

This week, the Rock Hill NAACP announced a June 9 candidates’ forum, saying it would feature Norman, Parnell and Green Party candidate David Kulma.

But Norman’s campaign said it had not committed to the forum. Scheduling conflicts could keep the former S.C. legislator from participating, the campaign added.

Steve Love of the Western York County NAACP, who is organizing the forum for the state chapter, said the group believes one member received a verbal commitment from Norman to take part. However, Norman campaign still has to work out details, he added.

“I’m still hopeful he will be able to participate,” Love said.

The AARP of South Carolina also is putting together a debate on June 12, focused on health care and entitlements. The group has reserved space at Winthrop University but hasn’t been able to get a firm commitment from the Norman camp.

“We would have to have both of them (to hold the event) because we’re a nonpartisan organization,” said Patrick Cobb, AARP’s communications director.

Parnell spokesman Michael Wukela said the Sumter Democrat’s campaign is “excited” about participating in both forums.

Norman spokesman R.J. May said the Republican’s campaign is working with different groups to find dates that fit its schedule.

Endorsements? Yes, maybe

▪ Archie Parnell of Sumter received the endorsement Wednesday of Alexis Frank, one of his Democratic primary challengers. The 26-year-old Frank of Rock Hill won 22 percent of the vote in May’s three-way Democratic primary, her first run for office.

▪ The runner-up in the Republican primary, state Rep. Tommy Pope, congratulated GOP nominee Ralph Norman after their contentious runoff, which went to a recount. Pope said he “wish(ed)” Norman “well in the upcoming election.” But he stopped short of formally endorsing his fellow Rock Hill Republican.