CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Congressman-Elect Joe Cunningham told supporters Wednesday night he presented a message that resonated with voters across the Lowcountry and was ready to begin leading.
“I wanted to run a positive campaign that my son, Boone, could look back on and be proud of,” he said. “So that’s what we tried to do. We focused not on tearing our opponent down but on talking about the issues that affected folks at their kitchen table, like fixing health care, protecting Medicare, protecting Social Security. We offered solutions to ease the traffic problems, help our veterans, and, yes, focus in like a laser on protecting our shorelines from offshore drilling.”
Cunningham beat GOP candidate Katie Arrington, who had defeated Rep. Mark Sanford in the Republican primary earlier this year.
The win will place Cunningham in a seat no Democrat has held since the 1980s.
“This campaign started at a small kitchen table in West Ashley,” he said. “We did not have any staffers or money, and we didn’t know a thing about running for office. But we knew that if things didn’t change in Washington, that our children would inherit a country much more divided and divisive than any of us could imagine.”
Cunningham said he learned the day after launching that campaign that his wife, Amanda, was pregnant and called his son, Boone, the fuel that kept him going through the campaign.
Cunningham thanked Sanford for his years of service to the state and the district. He called Sanford a patriot and a "fierce defender of our environment," a legacy Cunningham said he intends to continue in Congress.
He then thanked his opponent, Arrington, who earlier in the day blasted Sanford as part of the reason she lost the race and part of the reason the district lost “its conservative agenda.”
“She’s a fighter, and proved that she’s run a spirited campaign following her accident,” he said. “Katie also lost her mom this year, but she still kept going. This has shown real courage on her behalf, and Amanda and I will continue to keep her in our prayers, and her family as well.”
Cunningham is the first new Democrat from South Carolina to head to Congress since Jim Clyburn in 1992, according to the Associated Press.
“Along the way, I made some promises,” he said. “I said I wouldn’t take any corporate PAC money because I want to serve you, no one else. I made a term limits pledge, a maximum of three terms, six years, because the clock is ticking from day one, and I know that I will come home soon to live under the same laws that we pass. These are the promises I intend to keep.”
Both Cunningham and Arrington had to wait a pretty long time to find out the results as the race wasn’t called until around 2 a.m. on Wednesday as officials were continuing to count ballots. It was just after 1 a.m. on Wednesday that Cunningham’s watch party wrapped up, not because they wanted to, but because the building the watch party was being held at was shutting down for the night.
“Lowcountry Over Party” was Cunningham’s slogan leading up to election day, promising coastal voters he will work across party lines to tackle issues like off-shore drilling and infrastructure needs.
That may be why some experts called the race a competitive one.
Cunningham has appealed to some Republican voters by offering a more moderate approach than Arrington’s staunch support of President Donald Trump and his initiatives.
Cunningham has even garnered support from some Republican mayors and other leaders in the Lowcountry.
But the question remained whether that would be enough to help him topple the Republican majority that has controlled this district that spans across parts of five counties.
In a poll commissioned by End Citizens United, Arrington was favored by seven points heading into the general election.