S.C. Senate race pits old South against new
Sen. Hollings faces 'new face of the South' in his fight for re-election
By Candy Crowley/CNN
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (October 27) -- In some ways, Sen. Fritz Hollings is a man on his own, the only incumbent Democrat running state-wide in South Carolina.
He's an old-style Democrat in the new Republican South. Over the last two decades, eight Southern Democrats have lost their Senate seats to the Republicans.
"The last of the Mohicans, so to speak, is left here," Hollings said. "I've got an uphill fight, right down to Election Day. There's no question about that. There's only two ways to run ... for public office: one is unopposed, the other is scared. We're running scared."
Hollings is also running ahead in a race that pits the last of a generation of old-school Southern Democrats against an opponent selling himself as the new face of the South.
His challenger, three-term Rep. Bob Inglis, is a solid conservative whose profiles generally contain the words "Boy Scout."
"I think it's very important we change the way that we do business here and that's why I proposed a contract for a courteous campaign to Sen. Hollings," Inglis said.
In response to Inglis' call for contract on campaign courtesy, Hollings said Inglis could "kiss my fanny."
Later, the senator got blunt and called his opponent a "goddamn skunk."
"I think we should expect more civility," Inglis said during one debate. "We should expect a U.S. senator to not demean us, to not belittle us, to not use language that insults us and embarrasses the whole state."
Hollings apologized to this Christian, conservative state for using the expletive, but not for his pique."He charged me with being evil, a tool of the corrupt labor unions, in with the Hollywood perverts, special rights for homosexuals and everything else, then comes along with a contract and says 'Let's be courteous,'" Hollings said.
Inglis and his supporters have seized upon the skunk issue as symbolic of the need for a change in leadership in a changing state. One campaign rally featured skunk-shaped cookies for Inglis' supporters.
Inglis, who favors term limits, suggests that Hollings has "gone Washington," grown arrogant and more interested in legislating than listening to his constituents.
In response, Hollings presses Inglis on his congressional record.
"I said now, you've been ... a congressman for six years; tell the people what you've done for the people in the 4th district during these six years. (He says), 'Well, I balanced the budget.' He didn't balance the budget."
Hollings pedals his seniority as a conduit for getting part of the federal pot for highways, airports, education, a litany that eats into Inglis' natural constituency.
"Generally, the South Carolina business community votes Republican or trends Republican, but they're for Hollings. Why are they for Hollings? Because he brings home the bacon," one South Carolina newspaper reporter said.
President Bill Clinton is the unknown factor in the race. Inglis, a member of the House Judiciary committee, has made the Lewinsky issue a campaign staple. Inglis says it's "obvious to most South Carolinians, I think. If there were a CEO in South Carolina who admitted to lying to board of directors for seven months and having sexual relations with the mail room clerk, he or she would be gone within 10 minutes."
A Hollings victory remains heavily vested in a solid turnout in the black community where support for the president remains strong. So Hollings walks a fine line, condemning the president's behavior and leaving it at that.
"You can see that I am running against a very clever gentleman," Hollings said. "He keeps running against Bill Clinton and not Fritz Hollings."
Probably the best argument for a Hollings victory this year is 95-year-old Republican Sen. Strom Thurmond, now serving his eighth term for South Carolina.
For all the talk and the reality of a new South, South Carolina is still a state steeped in tradition with a habit of re-electing its politicians as long as they want the job. Hollings has joked to friends he could probably stay in the Senate until he is 100 and still be the junior senator.
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