New U.S. House district called a lock for GOP

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COLUMBIA --- Gov. Nikki Haley signed a U.S. House redistricting plan into law Monday that creates a new 7th District, saying South Carolina can send another conservative to Washington to combat the federal government.

FILE - In this April 23, 2004 file photo, U.S. District Judge Matthew Perry speaks at the dedication of the federal courthouse named in his honor, in Columbia, S.C. Perry, a civil rights lawyer who went from sitting in the courtroom balcony because he was black to having the federal courthouse in Columbia, S.C., named in his honor, died Sunday, July 31, 2011. He was 89. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky, File)
FILE - In this April 23, 2004 file photo, U.S. District Judge Matthew Perry speaks at the dedication of the federal courthouse named in his honor, in Columbia, S.C. Perry, a civil rights lawyer who went from sitting in the courtroom balcony because he was black to having the federal courthouse in Columbia, S.C., named in his honor, died Sunday, July 31, 2011. He was 89. (AP Photo/Lou Krasky, File)

The new congressional district is anchored in Horry County, home to Myrtle Beach, and stretches across the Pee Dee region in the state's northeastern corner. Redistricting is required every decade to make sure district lines reflect population changes. South Carolina picked up a seventh seat in Congress because of population growth. According to the 2010 Census, the state added more than 610,000 people -- a 15.3 percent increase, to 4.6 million people, becoming the nation's 10th fastest growing state.

Republicans in the GOP-dominated state expect they'll be able to win the new seat in 2012.

"In this day and time when we have a situation where we're dealing with the battles in Washington, we need as many conservative votes as we can get, and guess what? We're going to send one more to D.C. to fight for us and that's a great thing," she told a crowd at Broadway at the Beach in Myrtle Beach.

Some attendees wore red shirts that read "Pee Dee Wants the 7th District."

"We are here today and not anywhere else, because the Pee Dee said the 7th belongs to us," Haley said. "Half the battle is me signing the bill, saying this district now belongs to you. The second half is making sure you put a good conservative representative in that seat, and we cannot compromise."

However, Haley's signature does not make the proposal final. It still faces a review by the U.S. Justice Department, which must decide whether it meets federal voting rights standards. Legal challenges in federal court are also expected.

Federal law requires the agency to review any changes to South Carolina election laws due to its history of voter rights violations. Haley said she believes the proposal will pass review.

Outside the Grand Strand beaches of Horry and Georgetown counties, and the city of Florence, the new district is largely rural. Three of the district's counties are among the state's top 10 in unemployment, with Marion topping the list at 20.1 percent in June.

During legislative debate over the lines, Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Hartsville, argued that Horry County would dominate the district.

"They're not part of the Pee Dee. They're the independent republic of Horry," said Malloy.

Haley dismissed questions Monday about the lines being drawn to guarantee another Republican in Congress.

"We have a conservative state. Find me a line that's not conservative in South Carolina. The people in South Carolina are conservative by nature," she said. "You can find a liberal line if you want, but drawing it fairly is drawing a conservative line."

Republicans already hold five of the state's six U.S. House seats, both Senate seats, every statewide elected office and control both legislative chambers.

The state's lone Democratic congressman, Rep. Jim Clyburn, represents the only majority-minority district.

Democrats and the American Civil Liberties Union have argued South Carolina should have two U.S. House minority districts. According to the 2010 Census, South Carolina's population is 66 percent white, 28 percent black, and 5 percent Hispanic.

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