DeMint set to win clash with Tenenbaum
GOP picks up Senate seat in South Carolina, CNN projects
(CNN) -- Republican Rep. Jim DeMint has won his battle with State Superintendent of Education Inez Tenenbaum in the race for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Democrat Fritz Hollings, CNN projects.
Democrats had believed they could hold Hollings' seat, pointing to South Carolina's record of voting for conservative but not necessarily Republican candidates.
An example is 1980, when the state went for Republican presidential nominee Ronald Reagan (52 percent) but also overwhelmingly elected Hollings (72 percent) -- with 22 percent of voters casting ballots for both Reagan and Hollings.
This race came to a head in the final debate between the two candidates, who were frequently at odds. At one point, both candidates simply ignored the question asked and sniped at one another -- DeMint criticizing Tenenbaum's record on education, and Tenenbaum blaming DeMint for lost jobs.
DeMint, 53, a Greenville native who graduated from the University of Tennessee and who received an MBA from Clemson, was an advertising account representative for Scott Paper when he became involved in politics by volunteering for Bob Inglis' 1992 House race in the state's 4th district.
Inglis stepped down in 1998, and DeMint ran for the seat, making many of the same promises as Inglis. He won a run-off election, earning 58 percent of the vote, and then was re-elected easily in 2000 and 2002.
DeMint is an abortion-rights opponent, is against stem cell research and in favor of the Bush tax plan. And while he is unquestionably conservative, DeMint raised eyebrows among his Republican colleagues by criticizing them for their inability to control spending.
Education is a major concern for Tenenbaum, also 53, who made her first bid for public office in 1994. She ran unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor but impressed then-Gov. David Beasley, who appointed her to the Juvenile Justice Task Force. In 1998, Tenenbaum was elected Superintendent of Education, receiving 58 percent of the vote. She topped that, receiving 59 percent in her re-election bid in 2002, one of only two Democrats to get elected in statewide elections.
Tenenbaum is an abortion-rights advocate but has said she would vote against partial-birth abortions, with an exception for the health of the mother. She also supports the death penalty, the Second Amendment (including the right to carry concealed weapons), the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act, and favors tax cuts for the middle class but not for the upper class.
Each candidate spent part of the campaign on the defensive. Tenenbaum faced criticism about state schools and their inability to meet the "No Child Left Behind" standards, as well as for her support for raising taxes on beer and wine, cigarettes and gasoline to pay for education.
DeMint has had to defend, among other things, his call for national sales tax to replace the federal income tax, a move Tenenbaum declared would raise taxes on the middle class. And he spent time during the final weeks of the campaign backtracking after saying that he believed homosexuals and unwed mothers should not be school teachers.