In SC, yet another Democrat primary surprise


Remember Alvin Greene — Jim Demint’s underfunded surprise Democrat challenger in 2010 who shocked the country by knocking off the party establishment’s well-funded favorite?

Well, it appears something similar is happening again in The Palmetto State’s 7th congressional district Democrat primary:

Gloria Bromell Tinubu was not supposed to win the Democratic primary for South Carolina’s new 7th Congressional District.

And she may not yet, after another of the court rulings that has defined the Great Primary Debacle of 2012.

But Tinubu – pronounced “Ti-new-boo” – suddenly is getting a lot of attention, having finished first in – or won, depending on your legal perspective – the district’s June 12 primary.

Tinubu only returned to her home state of South Carolina late last year, meaning she should have lacked the name recognition and organization needed to win. She has not shined at raising money, a major problem for a congressional candidate. And nearly every “big” name in S.C. Democratic circles – including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn of Columbia, the minority whip of the U.S. House – endorsed her top competitor.

“I’ve only met her twice,” Clyburn, the state’s most prominent Democrat, said Thursday. “I don’t know much about her.”

Despite the odds, Tinubu, an unknown to Democratic leaders and many voters, pulled off an unexpected feat, topping a Democratic competitor that out-fundraised her and, seemingly, securing the Democratic nomination for the newly drawn 7th District, made up of the Grand Strand and many Pee Dee counties.

Now, however, a Friday ruling in a lawsuit says there must be a runoff between Tinubu and Preston Brittain, the second-highest Democratic vote-getter and the favorite of many Democratic powers.

Tinubu starts in the lead, having taken 52 percent of the June 12 vote to Brittain’s 39 percent, or 49 percent to 36 percent if votes for a candidate who dropped out are counted, as a judge ordered Friday. Tinubu’s legal team is mulling an appeal of that ruling, a move that could head off Tuesday’s runoff.

How did Tinubu come out on top earlier this month?

Tinubu, an economist and a teaching assistant at Coastal Carolina University who is more professorial than political, shies away from questions about her Democratic and Republican competitors, giving only broad explanations for her primary performance. Instead, the Georgetown County native and former Georgia House of Representatives member stresses her lifelong work as a community activist, advocating for those who feel they have no voice in the political process.

“We’ve moved away from a commitment to providing equal access and equal opportunity to all people,” said Tinubu who, while a member of the Atlanta City Council in the 1990s, worked to clean up a corridor in her district known for drugs and prostitution. Ultimately, three hotels known for illegal activity were razed and a code enforcement initiative was started.

“That’s the story of my life. I’m in communities that are neglected,” said the 59-year-old mother of four adult children and grandmother of two. “You’ve got to be the change you want to see, like Gandhi said.”

That traditional Democratic message, paired with a state Supreme Court decision, a smart ground/media game and luck laid the groundwork for Tinubu’s June 12 finish.  [..]

It appears that South Carolina has become SO Republican — and the state Democrat Party has been so neutered — that GOP voters can afford to switch parties and cross over and toy with the opposition party’s primaries.

Alas, we can only dream of such a day coming to North Carolina …