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WASHINGTON - South Carolina was awarded a seventh U.S. House seat Tuesday, making it one of eight states to gain congressional clout as a result of the 2010 census.
The new congressional district will likely be a coastal region centered around fast-growing Horry County, and it will almost certainly tilt Republican, further isolating House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn as the delegation's lone Democrat.
Nationally, 10 states based predominantly in the Democratic strongholds of the Midwest and the Northeast ceded 12 House seats to eight Republican-leaning states in the South and the West.
That shift will make it harder for President Obama to win re-election in 2012, and for Democrats to regain control of the House and to maintain their Senate majority.
"Much is riding on the census results announced here today," Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said at a National Press Club news conference Tuesday. "They will determine how more than $450 billion in federal funds are distributed. The 2010 census will serve as the backbone for our political and economic system for years to come."
South Carolina's population reached 4.65 million, giving it a 15.3 percent growth rate since 2000 when it had just over 4 million residents.
"Our state's natural beauty, positive business climate and status as a right-to-work state have attracted more and more people to locate here over the last decade," said S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, a Charleston Republican who will play a significant role in drawing the new congressional map.
"Gaining a seventh congressional seat will give South Carolina's delegation a stronger voice in fighting against unfunded federal mandates and overreaching federal programs in Washington," Harrell said.
The country as a whole grew by 9.7 percent, with the U.S. population reaching 308.75 million.
Thanks to rapid growth along the coast, Rep-elect Tim Scott faces the likelihood that his 1st Congressional District could be chopped in half after the General Assembly and Gov.-elect Nikki Haley redraw the congressional map.
The Justice Department will have to approve the new map because the state's past voting discrimination at the polls makes it subject to federal oversight under the Voting Rights Act.
"I have to digest that my district will have to change despite what I want," Scott, a North Charleston Republican, said.
Scott, a state representative who formerly chaired the Charleston County Council, will replace the retiring Rep. Henry Brown next month, becoming the first black Republican sent to Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction.
Scott's home county is Charleston, but while he gained 61 percent of the vote there in the Nov. 2 election, he did even better in Horry, garnering 68 percent.
Rapid population growth in the two counties makes it unlikely that both would remain in his district under a new congressional map.
The 5th Congressional District and the 2nd Congressional District will likely also undergo significant makeovers because of large population increases.
"Every state would like to have more representation in Washington," said S.C. Sen. Mick Mulvaney, an Indian Land Republican who defeated House Budget Committee chairman John Spratt last month.
"It's a tremendous asset to the state that we're in this position," Mulvaney said.
Rep. Joe Wilson, a Lexington Republican who could pick up a bigger share of Beaufort County in a revamped 2nd District, said South Carolina will regain the seventh House member it lost in 1930 because of a population decline.
"Growing our representation on Capitol Hill is a key factor in achieving goals for the people of the Palmetto State," Wilson said. "It now means our state has a seventh voice fighting for causes that matter most to the residents of South Carolina with a new district on the fast-growing coast."
Each of the 50 states has two U.S. senators under the Constitution. Reapportionment - assigning the number of U.S. House seats to the various states - was the reason the Founding Fathers set a national census every decade.
The new population figures carried good news for Republicans both in South Carolina and across the country.
When the 112th Congress convenes next month, five of South Carolina's six U.S. House seats will be held by Republicans for the first time.
The 113th Congress could see Republicans claims six of seven House seats after states legislators and Haley redraw the congressional map.
"The governor-elect is extremely excited to see South Carolina gain a congressional seat because she believes who we send (to Washington) to represent us is critically important," said Rob Godfrey, a Haley spokesman. "She'll be paying very close attention as the redistricting process moves through the General Assembly."