1st Congressional District race heads to round two - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

1st Congressional District race heads to round two

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One down, two to go.

Candidates for the 1st Congressional District are entering round two of a three-legged race.

Leg one – primary. Leg two – runoff. Leg three – general election.

The period between that primary and runoff is the longest in state history, nine weeks instead of three.

Both Democratic and Republican candidates are facing a runoff July 22.

On the Democratic side, Brian Reese, a UPS manager from Savannah, faces Richmond Hill Realtor Amy Tavio.

Republicans are heavily favored to win the general election.

State Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler) faces Savannah surgeon Dr. Bob Johnson in the runoff.

Both candidates say they oppose the Affordable Care Act.

"We've got to turn Obamacare into a 3-D movie," Carter said in an interview at his Pooler pharmacy, echoing his television ads. "We've got to delay it, defund it and defeat it."

Johnson touts his experience as a physician and his work in veterans affairs hospitals, saying he knows better than pharmacist Carter how to fix American healthcare.

"He's a good guy," Johnson said. "He's in the healthcare business. But it's like selling nails at Home Depot. It doesn't make you a contractor."

Carter says he isn't just a pharmacist, but a successful small businessman who knows how to balance the books.

On the Democratic side, two relatively unknown candidates face off in the runoff.

Armstrong Atlantic State University political science professor Bruce Mallard says it's telling that no well-known Democrats put their hats in the ring.

"I think it's because they recognize that (a Republican win) is kind of inevitable," he said.

Mallard sees a cycle – well-known candidates opting out of the race because they believe it'll be too hard to win and lesser-known candidates struggling to raise funds to buy TV ads and raise their profiles.

A Republican win "becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy after awhile," Mallard said.

Candidate Tavio wants to change that.

"You hear that the district leans Republican, it's always been Republican," she said. "That doesn't encourage people to come out and vote."

In many ways Tavio and her opponent, Reese are on the same page. Both want to bridge the gap between Republicans and Democrats.

"The problems that we have in Washington are, no one's talking to each other," Reese said.

And both candidates say their primary focus is creating jobs and a stronger economy.

Reese believes his deep Savannah roots sets him apart from the candidates.

"I'm homegrown," he said.

Tavio points out she's the only woman in the race.

"We're the peacekeepers in the family, and I think we can be the peacekeepers in D.C. as well," she said.

Mallard said it's unlikely Democrats have a shot in November. He still favors Carter to win the Republican nomination, and eventually the seat.

"But sometimes runoffs change the dynamic a little bit," he said.

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