Spratt spokesman: Dem has conceded longtime seat

Published: Nov. 3, 2010 at 11:32 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 4, 2010 at 6:18 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A spokesman for veteran South Carolina Rep. John Spratt said Wednesday the House Budget chairman has conceded his race to Republican state Sen. Mick Mulvaney.

Spokesman Nu Wexler said the 14-term congressman from York left a message for Mulvaney, but had not been able to speak with him directly.

"This morning Congressman Spratt left a message with Sen. Mulvaney, congratulating him and offering his assistance with a smooth transition," Wexler said in a statement.

The 68-year-old Spratt planned to spend the day with his family, children and grandchildren, Wexler said.

Spratt had refused to concede defeat late Tuesday, saying he would continue to press for a full accounting of votes in South Carolina's 5th District.

Mulvaney won with 55 percent of the vote to Spratt's 45 percent.

Spratt was first elected to office in 1982. He was defeated after a spirited campaign in the conservative 5th District amid a furor over the nation's growing deficit, stimulus spending and President Barack Obama's health care overhaul.

The district along the border with North Carolina has backed a Republican president since Spratt was elected. Tuesday's results showed voters were no longer willing to split their tickets to keep the moderate Southern Democrat in office.

"Spratt's just been in there too long," said Mike Hemlepp, 75, after he cast his ballot in Clover, just north of Spratt's hometown.

Eric Beddingfield, Mulvaney's campaign manager, said the winner had been up all night and planned to spend some time with his wife and three sons on Wednesday.

Late Tuesday, the relative newcomer to South Carolina politics said he was "overwhelmed with the outpouring of energy and support."

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised at the margin of victory," Mulvaney said.

The 43-year-old Mulvaney ran a campaign to entice those who'd voted for Spratt in the past, by telling voters Spratt was no longer the representative he once was and had become the handmaiden of Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Spratt spent much of his campaign outlining his accomplishments over his 28 years in Congress. However, the district has ballooned with newcomers attracted by South Carolina's lower taxes and jobs in the Charlotte, N.C. area, people with little memory of Spratt's constituent service.

Mulvaney worked as a lawyer before becoming a real estate investor and developer, spending two years in the state House before running for the state Senate in 2008.

By arguing that Spratt had grown out of touch with the people in his district, Mulvaney was able to attract those who'd voted for Spratt in the past without insulting them, said Winthrop political scientist Scott Huffmon.

"It was a very clever strategy. He gave people who'd voted for Spratt in the past a reason to walk away from him now, arguing that it was Spratt who had abandoned them," said Huffmon.

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