Next Incumbent to Go: S.C's Bob Inglis

Washington Matters

Next Incumbent to Go: S.C's Bob Inglis

At least one more incumbent is likely to see his career end when the votes are counted Tuesday night.

Update: Gowdy trounced Inglis 71%-29% on June 22. The following column was published June. 21.

When GOP Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina was first elected in 1992, he was the darling of the Christian Right. And when Republicans won control of the House two years later, he seemed to be a man on the fast track to success. Never one to play it safe, he took a chance in 1998 by leaving the House to challenge Democratic Sen. Fritz Hollings and narrowly lost. He returned to the House in 2004 and seemed likely to finish out his career there.

But in Tuesday’s round of primaries and runoffs, Inglis is the most likely incumbent to be knocked off. His biggest sin is his 2008 vote for TARP, the big bank bailout, but he’s also on the outs for for voting against President Bush's Iraq surge, for backing climate change legislation and for being one of only a handful of Republicans to vote in favor of reprimanding Joe “You Lie!” Wilson, a fellow S.C. Republican who famously interrupted President Obama’s address to Congress. His opponents say the conservative Inglis just isn't conservative enough.

Four Republicans ran against Inglis in the South Carolina primary two weeks ago, and one, Trey Gowdy, won the backing of the Tea Party and bested Inglis, 39% to 28%. Because Gowdy, a former federal prosecutor, got less than 50%, there’ll be a runoff today. Hardly anyone thinks Inglis can pull off an upset.

Inglis will likely be the fifth incumbent to lose this primary season, following Sens. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Bob Bennett (R-UT) and Reps. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and Parker Griffith (R-AL). Griffith and Specter were party switchers whose loyalty was questioned by core voters. Inglis has a similar problem of sorts: Though he didn’t switch parties, too many South Carolina Republicans think he can’t be counted upon.