Rep. Gresham Barrett (R)
South Carolina 3rd District
The Upstate in South Carolina is many days’ travel by wagon from the Lowcountry plantations along the coast. It was first settled by Scots-Irish farmers, including the family of future Vice President John C. Calhoun, around the time of the Revolutionary War. The pioneers wanted to make big plantations of these forests, but the land was too hilly for the labor-intensive rice crops grown in the Lowcountry and sometimes too cold for cotton. So relatively few slaves were brought here, and the land became mostly small farms. Today, the racial and cultural tone of the Upstate shows traces of these roots. This is a mostly white part of the South, with a hell-of-a-fella tone to daily life and a tradition-minded slice of Middle America. Yet it is not untouched by change. Aiken, with its horsey trappings for polo and steeplechase, has long attracted affluent transplants. The nearby Savannah River Site—a 310-square-mile federal weapons plant complex that for four decades produced tritium and plutonium that fueled America’s nuclear arsenal—employed generations of highly trained engineers. More than 12,000 were laid off when the plant closed in 1992, though many were hired for the clean-up of nuclear waste stored at the site. Plans are also underway for a new $5 billion plant to convert plutonium from nuclear warheads for use in commercial reactors. Today, Interstate 85—once the Main Street of America's textile belt—travels through a booming southeastern corridor that runs from Raleigh-Durham to Atlanta. Clemson University was founded here by Calhoun’s son-in-law and is one of the state’s two land-grant institutions.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 3rd Congressional District of South Carolina follows the Georgia border north from the Savannah River Site through the tree-harvesting country around McCormick County to mountains along the North Carolina border. The southern part of the 3rd has a few heavily African-American areas, like Edgefield County, where the late Sen. Strom Thurmond grew up and first won public office in the 1930s. The former segregationist retired in 2002 at age 100. Edgefield County has grown significantly as it became part of the metropolitan area around Aiken and Augusta, Ga. This part of South Carolina, ancestrally Democratic, began trending Republican in the 1950s as cultural issues became more important in this fervently religious region. The district has consistently voted Republican even when Democrats have won statewide elections. In 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain won 64% of the vote, his best showing in a South Carolina district.
Rep. Gresham Barrett (R)
Elected: 2002, 4th term.
Born: Feb. 14, 1961, Westminster .
Education: The Citadel, B.S. 1983.
Family: Married (Natalie); 3 children.
Military career: Army, 1983-87.
Elected office: SC House of Reps., 1996-2002.
Professional Career: Furniture store owner, 1987-96.
The congressman from the 3rd District is Gresham Barrett, a Republican elected in 2002. Barrett grew up in Westminster in Oconee County and graduated from The Citadel in Charleston. After serving as an artillery captain in the First Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, he returned home to run his family’s furniture store. In 1996, he was elected to the state House. In 2001, when Lindsey Graham, the first Republican to hold this seat since Reconstruction, started running for the Senate, Barrett became the frontrunner to succeed him. He opposed abortion rights, defended gun owner rights, called for a national missile defense system and new weapons technology as part of the effort to “hunt down scum like Osama bin Laden and wipe their kind from the face of the Earth.” He told voters that government should operate more like his business. Government should work “like Barrett’s Furniture, where you get service, you get simplicity and people are there to help you.” With a superior grass-roots organization, he led the six-candidate primary with 43% of the vote. In the two-week runoff campaign, state Rep. Jim Klauber argued that Barrett would not be sufficiently tough in supporting a crackdown on illegal immigrants. Barrett insisted that military issues were paramount. He raised more money, won more endorsements and won the runoff 65%-35%. He won the general election 67%-31%.
|Gresham Barrett (R)||186,799||(65%)||($765,832)|
|Jane Dyer (D)||101,724||(35%)||($82,865)|
|Gresham Barrett (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (63%), 2004 (100%), 2002 (67%)
In the House, Barrett had a solidly conservative voting record, especially on cultural issues, and is a member of the Republican Study Committee, a group of the most conservative members of the House. Ever the Citadel graduate (his father, brother and two nephews are also graduates), he is distinguished by his crisp, military bearing. “With his pressed suits and posture as perfect as the Washington Monument’s, Gresham Barrett is perhaps Congress’ most starched member,” wrote The State newspaper. He was one of the 15 House Republicans who voted against both the Republican Medicare prescription drug deal in 2003 and the GOP leadership-backed omnibus appropriations bill in late 2003. He was the only lawmaker from South Carolina to vote against an extension of the Voting Rights Act, and he introduced the Public Prayer Protection Act to permit public officials to pray in public as they see fit.
On fiscal issues, Barrett has called for a Taxpayer Bill of Rights “to ensure that Washington will become more efficient and accountable to the taxpayers that pay for it.” Seeking “fresh air and sunshine” for federal spending, he made public in 2008 his requests for local spending projects. The practice of earmarking money in the appropriations bills for individual districts had become controversial, with critics deriding it as a waste of taxpayer money. In January 2009, Barrett, citing the nation’s economic recession, announced he would donate his yearly congressional pay raise to a local charity. Barrett won passage in the House of an amendment for the Energy Department to study the feasibility of commercial nuclear energy production at Savannah River.
This has been a safe district for Barrett. In March 2009, he announced his campaign for governor in 2010, when Republican Mark Sanford is term-limited. He said that he would emphasize economic development and his experience in “bringing people together.” Several local office-holders were considering campaigns for the House seat, which likely will remain Republican.