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Democrats struggle to push back Republican gains in SC

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Republicans are again sweeping to election victories across South Carolina on Tuesday.

All seven statewide offices are before voters. A Democrat hasn't won one since 2006 and Republicans lead in all races.

All seven U.S. House seats also are up for grabs; the GOP controls six of them and the Democrats haven't wrestled a seat back since 1986. In six of the seven seats the party in control kept the seat. One district remained undecided.

The Democrats spent a lot of money on two key races. State Rep. James Smith has spent $1.4 million, but lost his bid to unseat Republican Gov. Henry McMaster, while Democrat Joe Cunningham has spent close to $2 million trying to defeat Republican state Rep. Katie Arrington in the 1st congressional district, where Arrington knocked off incumbent Mark Sanford in the June primary.

All 124 state House seats are up for re-election, but more than half of them, 68, are uncontested. Just 45 races have a Republican facing a Democrat.

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STATEWIDE OFFICES

Along with touting his accomplishments, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson has spent campaign time this year explaining his role in an investigation into corruption at the Statehouse.

Less than a month before the election, a State Grand Jury report said Wilson impeded an investigation into corruption at the South Carolina Statehouse involving a friend he hired as a political consultant.

Democrat Constance Anastopoulo has spent nearly $500,000 of her own money trying to knock off Wilson, much of it on TV ads. Some of them run in the same newscasts as commercials for her personal injury lawyer husband Akim Anastopoulo, well known for his "Don't scream, call Akim" ads that run statewide.

Republican Secretary of State Mark Hammond is seeking a fifth term, trying to win a general election after primary opponents emphasized that more than a hundred South Carolina laws passed for a decade did not have the state seal, which is one of the secretary of state's duties.

His Democratic opponent is retired U.S. Army Maj. Melvin Whittenburg, who said he'll make sure the job's requirements are met, and also add new initiatives like waiving application fees for new businesses started by recent college graduates.

Republican state Treasurer Curtis Loftis is running for a third term. He has tangled with legislators over investments and how to handle the state retirement system. His opponent is Democrat Rosalyn Glenn, a consultant who helps business and other groups with their financial strategies.

South Carolina Agriculture Commissioner Hugh Weathers beat minor party candidates David Edmond of the Green Party and Chris Nelums of the United Citizens Party to get a fourth term.

South Carolina Education Superintendent Molly Spearman is running unopposed for a second term after Democratic challenger Israel Romero dropped out of the race in October because an undisclosed felony conviction a decade ago made him ineligible to serve.

Republican Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom is guaranteed a fifth term.

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CONGRESS

There is one rematch in the U.S. House races in South Carolina, as Democrat Archie Parnell again lost to U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman in the 5th District.

Norman won a special election last year by just 3 percentage points, but appeared on his way to a much bigger win in 2018. The complexion of this year's race changed in May when divorce records surfaced showing Parnell broke a glass door and beat his then-wife with his fists back in 1973. The 5th District is in the northern part of the state and includes suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina.

South Carolina's longest serving congressman is the delegation's lone Democrat, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn. He won a 14th term against Republican Gerhard Gressmann in the 5th District, which connects parts of Columbia with parts of Charleston and was drawn to insure it had a majority of minority voters.

In the 2nd District, Republican U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson won handily over Democrat and Army veteran Sean Carrigan. Wilson hasn't faced a close election since his district was redrawn in 2010. It includes Aiken, Barnwell and Lexington counties as well as parts of Orangeburg and Richland counties.

Republican U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan easily won a fifth term against Democrat Mary Geren in the 3rd District that covers 11 counties in northwest South Carolina.

U.S. Rep. Tom Rice is defeated state Rep. Robert Williams in the 7th District. Rice is the only congressman the district which stretches from Darlington to Florence has ever known. Williams is also running to keep his state House seat.

There is one new face from South Carolina in the U.S. House. Republican state Sen. William Timmons beat Democrat Brandon Brown in the 4th District, anchored by Greenville and Spartanburg. The seat was opened when Rep. Trey Gowdy decided not to run for re-election.

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AMENDMENT

South Carolina voters will decide whether to keep voting on one statewide office.

A state constitutional amendment allowing the governor to appoint the superintendent starting in 2023 is on the ballot.

Supporters think having the governor appoint the head of schools in South Carolina assures they work as a team. Opponents said the proposal takes power away from the people.

Voters in South Carolina have already taken the adjutant general and lieutenant governor positions off ballots this decade.

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