BEAUFORT, S.C. (WSAV) – For the first time in forty years, a Democrat will hold South Carolina’s first congressional seat.
Congressman Mark Sanford held the position for three terms and Republican Candidate Katie Arrington is blaming him for her loss.
“The goods news… we are neck and neck in this race and we’re still gonna win this thing,” Joe Cunningham told the crowd at his watch party Tuesday night.
And he was right.
The Democratic candidate beat out Arrington by 1.4 percent. Even though she won four of the five counties, Cunningham took the biggest — Charleston.
“We are really, really, really, happy with this victory,” said Mayra Rivera, chair of the Beaufort County Democratic Club. “It has been 40 years waiting for having another Democrat congressman.”
Despite endorsements from President Donald Trump and his son, the Republicans lost the seat they had held since 1981.
Arrington pointed blame at money coming in from out of state — and Incumbent Mark Sanford.
“We lost because Mark Sanford could not understand that this was about the conservative movement and not him,” Arrington said in a news conference Wednesday.
“We all wanna blame somebody else if things don’t go as maybe we might want in life, I get that, that’s normal,” Sanford told News 3 in an interview. “But I’ve been very consistent in this position, and staying out of races because they weren’t my race to run.”
Sanford says Cunningham won, not because of the party, but because of issues.
“Issues matter,” he said. “The environment became a very big issue in this race, they say that all politics is local, this was an issue that I think was a part of what drove the election that we saw last night, was simply quality of life and the environment and the way people perceived that he would stand on that front versus where they thought she might stand.”
He added that the seat change is a reflection of the changing blue coast along South Carolina.
“It is a very different animal than Columbia or Greenville or Spartanburg,” he said, adding, “I think it’s going to be increasingly democratic and blue portion of our state given the influx of different people within many cases different political perspectives.”
He said the three biggest tasks ahead of Congressman-Elect Cunningham are the environment, infrastructure, and federal spending.
The Beaufort County Democratic Club tells News 3 that Cunningham will approach those issues not for party, but for everyone in the Lowcountry.