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Campaign Files, 1992 (defeated Tommy Hartnett in the general election)


Description of Materials for 1992 Senatorial Campaign

The ten feet of 1992 campaign records consist of campaign organization files, correspondence, Democratic Party information, financial records, persons files (including opposition research), publicity files, strategy files, topical files, and voter research activities (including polling).

The campaign organization records include schedules, staff notebooks and memos, and the files of Andy Brack, campaign spokesman and press contact, and Tom Mullikin, campaign manager. Financial Records include standard campaign budget information, as well as contact lists, divided by group (mayors and county council chairs, for example) and by county, and an extensive run of folders detailing fundraising events and rallies going back to March, 1991.

The amount of opposition research collected exploded in this campaign. The persons files include over two feet of information on Hartnett, including extensive background research into Hartnett's personal finances and life in general and his stance on a number of issues like workfare, product liability, and health care. Hartnett's files also include information on Hartnett's research on Hollings. Of interest is a transcript of the testimony Hartnett gave in the Leach vs. Westvaco Development Corporation in 1992.

Publicity files provide an in-depth view of the strategies and tactics employed to mold the candidate's image and obtain favorable press coverage. Of note in the strategy files are the Coordinated Campaign files, which outline the South Carolina Democratic Party's strategy for 1992, and the weekly updates on the campaigns.

Topical consists of Hollings' stances on the issues of the campaign such as budget, Gramm-Rudman-Hollings, Hugo, textiles, and trade. The FEMA folder involved Hollings' response to the (as he saw) poor performance of the Federal Emergency Management Agency in responding to Hurricane Hugo. 1992's Hurricane Andrew, in Florida, rekindled this issue. Included also is a lengthy booklet, 'Issues Guide,' compiled by Hollings' staff with outlines of the Senator's positions on numerous issues.

This campaign saw a surge in voter research by the campaign. Several polls, surveys, and analyses are included in Voter Research, including 5 books of 'South Carolina Precinct Analysis' and 'A Survey of Attitudes Among Voters in South Carolina,' eight notebooks with results from surveys conducted from June, 1991, to October, 1992. The files between the 1992 and 1998 elections consist mainly of Democratic Party files. Of interest are the files from the 1996 National Convention and information on 'precinct targeting' in South Carolina. In preparation for the 1998 campaign, several surveys were completed in five districts.


  • 1992 (defeated Tommy Hartnett in the general election)


From the Collection: 800 Linear Feet

Biographical Note

Campaign for U.S. Senate, 1992

In 1992, Senator Hollings withstood a fierce challenge from Mt. Pleasant realtor and former Republican congressman Tommy Hartnett. A seasoned politician, Hartnett had served in the South Carolina House, 1965-1973, and Senate, 1973-1980, and the U.S. House of Representatives, 1980-1986. In 1986, Hartnett mounted an unsuccessful bid to become South Carolina's first Republican Lieutenant Governor since Reconstruction. Hartnett won the right to oppose Hollings in the general election by defeating Charlie Thompson, an instructor at Greenville's Trident Technical College, in the Republican primary.

An increasingly conservative South Carolina electorate and fervent anti-incumbency sentiment combined to make Hollings a prime target for GOP strategists in 1992. As early as June, 1991, political analysts at Cook and Company rated his seat a "toss-up." By May, 1992, the Rothenberg Report, citing the Senator's "weak poll numbers and...credible opponent," labeled him "highly vulnerable."

Three elements of a vigorous Hollings' campaign were instrumental in helping him meet Hartnett's challenge and win reelection while incumbents across the country were thrown out of office. First, he ran a strong advertising campaign which began very early in the race. Second, he was able define Hartnett as "Washington's candidate," and mute his opponent's vitriolic attacks. Third, he out raised and out spent Hartnett throughout the campaign.

After a rocky start to Hartnett's campaign, the Republican National Senatorial Committee (RNSC) dispatched several staff members to South Carolina to bolster Hartnett's faltering fundraising and organizational efforts and pledged the maximum $340,000 of "coordinated expenses" for the campaign. Responding to his obvious vulnerability and attempting to head off serious difficulty later in the race, Hollings ran a series of positive ads very early in the campaign. In June, ads demonstrating his commitment to fiscal conservatism aired throughout the state. A June 16 draft statement indicated that Hollings intended to run a "clean, positive campaign...stressing South Carolina's achievements during his terms as governor and senator." Hartnett went negative early in the campaign, attacking Hollings' record on taxes, crime, the Gulf War, and the line-item veto as early as April 15. Hollings provided rapid and effective responses to the opposition's attacks. Hartnett's strategy was to denounce Hollings as a Washington insider who had amassed a war chest full of out-of-state funds. He brought nationally prominent Republicans such as Vice President Dan Quayle, Senators Phil Gramm and Bob Dole, and even President Bush to South Carolina. The Senator seized this opportunity to brand Hartnett as "Washington's candidate." Though this at first seemed an absurd tactic by a man who had spent the last twenty-five years in the Senate, it was extremely effective. Hollings' team presented an image of the opponent as a cardboard cutout propped up by the GOP establishment in the nation's capital. It was revealed that Hartnett's Congressional reform plan was exactly the same as that of Republican candidates in five other states, that Hartnett was being shadowed by a RNSC media specialist on trips across the state, that the RNSC had provided him with free polling data which it did not offer his primary opponent, and that Hartnett's campaign received in excess of $300,000 from national GOP coffers.

Hollings stayed well ahead of Hartnett in the crucial fundraising game. On March 31, 1992, Hollings had already banked nearly $2 million while Hartnett had less than $100,000 on hand. Throughout the year, the Senator out paced his challenger in both PAC and private contributions, and easily overcame the significant funding the Hartnett campaign secured from the RNSC. Ultimately, Hollings won a narrow victory, receiving just over 51% of the vote.


Repository Details

Part of the South Carolina Political Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene St.
University of South Carolina
Columbia SC 29208 USA