Originally created 09/02/01

Official stays out of fight

AIKEN - The lines have been drawn. A Republican plan for redistricting South Carolina voting has passed, and Democratic Gov. Jim Hodges delivered his promised veto Friday.

Democratic leaders have criticized the plan as a power play to dilute the voting strength of blacks, who traditionally support Democrats.

Rep. Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, is a black leader who has chosen for now to stay out of the fray.

"The fact of the matter is, I've never really been that much involved in districting," Mr. Clyburn said. "It's against my philosophy. It has too much to do with race. If anything has emphasized or overemphasized race, that's wrong."

The representative has good reason to be bitter about the process. He had to defend his 1994 election win two times because of bickering over district lines.

"I went through one (redistricting battle) before, and it went to court," Mr. Clyburn said. By 1996, "I ran for the office three times."

He said the 1990 census was the basis for the dispute, just as the 2000 census is the basis for the current impasse.

"The first time I ran, they had already had redistricting but the courts threw it out. The courts said there was too much of a racial factor. When they redrew (voting lines), we had to run again."

Mr. Clyburn won the second contest, "but it was repealed. So we had to run again."

He was also victorious in the third vote. Despite the inconveniences, Mr. Clyburn has served in the state House without interruption for the past seven years.

Although redistricting has left a bad taste on his tongue, Mr. Clyburn said he wants to review the plans further; so far, he has mainly looked at how it would affect his portion of South Carolina.

"The Republican plan did not affect me that much, nor did I have problem with the Democratic plan," Mr. Clyburn said. "However, if either one shows evidence of racial polarization, I'm going to be against it, even if it's in my favor."

Republican lawmakers will try Tuesday to override Mr. Hodges' veto, though legislative leaders concede it's a nearly impossible task. Republicans would need votes from two-thirds of the members of the House and Senate who attend Tuesday's special meeting.

Additional plans could be considered later in the week, but most observers expect the fight over district lines to end up in federal court.

Mr. Clyburn said he would spend his Labor Day in Columbia doing more research, just as he suspects other lawmakers will.

"I'm going up Monday afternoon and I'm going to be there Tuesday, and I'm going to look at those plans in detail," he said.

Associated Press reports were used in this article.

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 648-1395 or eric@augusta.com.


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