AIKEN - For about nine hours Tuesday, veteran state Sen. Tommy Moore, D-Clearwater, had a familiar Republican opponent for his reelection bid.
Then Susan Swanson, a staunch pro-life advocate and Aiken County Republican Party activist who challenged Mr. Moore in 1996, changed her mind and withdrew from the race.
Her short-lived candidacy lasted from an early morning decision to file on the last day of qualifying until a late afternoon decision to abruptly withdraw.
Ms. Swanson, 55, who shares the same hometown as Mr. Moore, said she underestimated her workload as regional director of Heritage Community Services, a nonprofit program that promotes abstinence among teens
"There's some issues I have to deal with," she said. "I just can't do all my projects and run for office. It looks bad on my part. I have a desire to get the message of abstinence to our youth. ... I think I bit off a little more than I could chew. Lady signs up, then lady quits."
When asked whether she was pressured by either Democratic or Republican party officials to withdraw from the race against Mr. Moore, who has garnered a reputation of bipartisan support from voters and cross-party effectiveness in the Legislature, she declined comment.
"I don't want to say," she said. "I don't want to say."
Ms. Swanson's decision to enter the race surprised political professionals.
As a former director of the Care Pregnancy Center in Augusta, she has extensive pro-life contacts on both sides of the Savannah River, said David Nix, the chairman of the Aiken County Republican Party.
Although Mr. Moore, whose district includes parts of Aiken, Saluda, Edgefield and McCormick counties, was considered a prohibitive favorite because of his fund-raising abilities and diligent constituency service, Mr. Nix points to the growing number of Republican voters in the Savannah Lakes resort community near McCormick and the Merriwether community in southern Edgefield County.
"If anything in the last eight years, the district has gotten more Republican," Mr. Nix said. "Depending on all the different factors and if the planets line up in the right way, she could give him a tough race."
Mr. Nix said Republicans anticipated a side benefit to Ms. Swanson's candidacy - forcing Mr. Moore to focus on his reelection and reduce his ability to stump statewide for Education Superintendent Inez Tenenbaum, a Democratic candidate in the race to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings.
Free from a home district opponent, Mr. Moore can concentrate on his legislative duties and campaign for Mrs. Tenenbaum, work that would elevate his name recognition elsewhere in the state for a possible gubernatorial run in 2007, said Robert Botsch, a political science professor at the University of South Carolina Aiken.
"His major drawback is that he's a Democrat, albeit a very conservative, independent one," Mr. Botsch said. "He'd make an excellent governor. Unlike our current governor, he can reach across the aisle and secure bipartisan support to get things done."
Mr. Moore, known for a style that mixes professional smoothness with folksy one-liners, said he is fully focused on his reelection campaign and hasn't made up his mind about a future gubernatorial run.
"I have not made any such decision," he said.
Reach Jim Nesbitt at (803) 648-1395 or email@example.com
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