You haven’t seen them in the headlines, but the Democrats running for the open Congressional seat representing the 1st District want you to know that they’re still out there campaigning.

Three Democrats announced their intention in 2009 to run against incumbent Henry Brown this November. When the Hanahan Republican dropped out of the race in January, a flood of fellow GOPers entered the race.

But the Dem field remains unchanged: Robert Burton, Robert Dobbs, and Dick Withington.

Burton, a Mt. Pleasant pilot and a member of the Air Force reserves, says the lack of increased interest from fellow Democrats is likely a recognition that there’s already a solid campaign in place.

“They look at my campaign and realize I’m a well-qualified person for the job,” he says.

Burton has been on the trail from Charleston to Myrtle Beach, as well as making visits to Washington, speaking with party leaders and local grassroots organizers.

Dobbs, a Pawleys Island resident, thinks some Democrats might be scared off by what awaits the winner in the general election.

“There’s a belief that a Democrat can’t win,” Dobbs says, particularly in the face of successful GOP brands like Thurmond or Campbell.

There may be some truth to that. In 2008, Democrat Linda Ketner lost in her challenge to Brown by less than five percent of the vote. But it’s hard to imagine that Democrats will see a stronger turnout in 2010.

That said, Republican Scott Brown’s Senate win in Massachusetts proves that voters can look beyond party labels. Dobbs says that a Democratic win is possible if a candidate works hard and gets the message out to voters.

Burton thinks the Republicans can provide a strong opponent, but he says he can win with a compelling military career and a focus on solving problems like jobs and education.

Tourism is a driving economic factor throughout the district. Charleston also has its port, area hospitals, and manufacturing successes with Boeing and wind turbine programs. But there’s little diversity in the Myrtle Beach economy.

Both Burton and Dobbs believe that a proposed interstate will be crucial to change that.

“Nobody is going to build a good production facility in Horry County until they have the infrastructure,” Burton says.

Dobbs also supports a commuter rail line running from Hilton Head to the Grand Strand as a way of making the region more accessible for tourists and as an avenue for employees to find work outside of their region.

Healthcare is going to be a continuing priority on the campaign trail. Dobbs supports a public option and says the Democrats need to do a better job explaining why it’s important in expanding coverage and reducing costs over the long term.

A priority for Burton will be reaching compromises on difficult issues like healthcare in the face of a Congress that’s more partisan than ever.

“My impression of Washington was that things don’t happen in D.C. unless there are compromises,” he says.

Both candidates have been hitting the campaign trail non-stop on the way to the June primary.

Dobbs spent time riding the bus in Myrtle Beach to hear voter concerns.

“It’s not just about talking to Democratic political activists,” he says.

Dick Withington did not return a call seeking an interview.

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