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In Conservative South Carolina, Longtime Dem Switches to GOP

South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick gestures as he speaks to the Richland County GOP convention on Friday, April 30, 2021, in Columbia, S.C. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)
Meg Kinnard/AP
FILE - In this Friday, April 30, 2021, file photo, South Carolina Republican Party Chairman Drew McKissick speaks to the Richland County GOP convention in South Carolina. On Wednesday, June 30, 2021, Scott Suggs, who has been Darlington County's clerk of court since 1997, said he would change his party affiliation to the GOP, a move that McKissick says shows the state's deepening conservatism despite blue trends in neighboring areas. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard, File)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A longtime county official in South Carolina announced he's switching his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican on Wednesday, a move that the state GOP chairman says shows a deepening conservatism despite blue trends in neighboring states.

Scott Suggs, who has been Darlington County's clerk of court since 1997, said that he had been pondering the party switch for years, due to what he characterized as shifts in Democrats that made the party “unrecognizable” compared to that of years past.

“I take my job very seriously, and, because of the outrageous policies of the national Democratic Party, I can no longer serve with a ‘D’ behind my name," Suggs said. “My commitment to Darlington County is as strong as it’s ever been, and I’m ready to keep working for the people who live here.”

Suggs’ wife, Angie Suggs, won the county auditor’s race last year by five points as a Republican. State GOP Chairman Drew McKissick said that election, plus Scott Suggs' party switch, now means Republicans control half of the elected positions in Darlington courthouse.

That feat, McKissick said, represents the GOP's growth across the board in South Carolina, where the party controls both legislative chambers, all statewide-elected offices and all but one congressional delegation seats.

McKissick attributed the advance in part to the excitement surrounding former President Donald Trump's continued popularity in the state, where Trump's 2016 primary win helped solidify his GOP presidential frontrunner status.

“We’ve seen big growth in the last four and a half, five years, since President Trump first ran," McKissick told The Associated Press on Wednesday. “You had every Republican who ran within Darlington County carry their portion of or all of Darlington County, in every race in this past election, from the president on down to local candidates.”

Despite Joe Biden's presidential victory last year, Trump still marked a double-digit win in South Carolina. McKissick netted historic victories in other races across the state, winning back South Carolina's 1st Congressional District after a blue flip in 2018, expanding control in the Legislature and securing a fourth term for U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham.

McKissick also successfully called off the state’s 2020 Republican primary in favor of throwing support behind the incumbent, with McKissick saying Trump faced “no legitimate primary challenger” and had a “record of results” in South Carolina.

South Carolina's neighboring states have trended more Democratic in some ways, with Biden last year winning Georgia, where Democrats won two U.S. Senate seats in January, giving the party control of the chamber. North Carolina has flipflopped between the parties in recent presidential elections, but Democrats do control the Governor's Mansion.

But South Carolina, McKissick said he felt certain, will remain in Republican hands for some time to come.

"If anybody thinks South Carolina’s getting purple, they need to have their eyes adjusted," he said.


Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP.