Cunningham was first elected in 2018 | Photo by Ruta Smith

 U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham has been in Congress 21 months and has already passed as many bills as most of his long-serving Republican colleagues. A vote to reelect him to a second term is a no brainer — it should be one of the easiest on your ballot this year.

Residents of South Carolina’s 1st Congressional District would be forgiven if they forgot what serious representation in Congress felt like. Most of the area’s recent congressmen have been duds. Cunningham’s predecessor, former governor and U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, passed a grand total of zero bills over his six terms in Congress.

While it’s not all about stats, the fact that Cunningham has been able to make inroads in a divided Congress speaks to the kind of leadership the 1st District and the nation needs right now.

Cunningham has made bipartisan appeal a central part of his campaign partly out of necessity — SC-1 is more Democratic than in Sanford’s days — but it’s also an effective way to govern.

Critics and Cunningham’s opponent have made House Speaker Nancy Pelosi the straw man stand-in for Cunningham on national issues, but there’s only one partisan firebrand on the ballot named Nancy in the 1st District, and it’s not the Speaker. The fact is: Cunningham has one of the most bipartisan voting records in Congress, the most by far from South Carolina’s mostly Republican delegation, according to the Lugar Center think tank.

Cunningham has kept a steady presence in Congress for the Lowcountry, matching his goal of running to be an “independent voice,” for the region. That’s certainly a break from the cheap, abrasive political rhetoric of his opponent and the president.

Cunningham’s GOP colleagues should take note: S.C. voters will realize soon enough that they deserve more than unproductive ideologues in office.

On policy, Cunningham could take more risks, and we hope he does with more support in the Senate and the White House after the November election. Conservation issues are easy wins in South Carolina, and Cunningham’s commendable commitment to banning offshore drilling won him support from environmental-minded voters and tourism interests that prefer to keep tar balls off our beaches. 

Cunningham’s reelection in November should be considered a vote of confidence, a mandate to do even more to help S.C. workers, students, those without health care and our neighbors beset with life’s challenges.

In the 6th District, voters remain fortunate to have Congressman Jim Clyburn representing them in Washington. Clyburn is one of the leading voices in government on civil rights, one of his life’s causes dating back a generation before his election in 1992. And as the third-ranking Democrat in the U.S. House, Clyburn continues to deliver for South Carolina and guide national policy with 6th District residents in mind.

Clyburn’s reelection appears certain, but Cunningham’s is not a sure thing. Voters in both Charleston-area districts should support their Democratic congressmen and, in the process, help buoy good candidates like Jaime Harrison at the polls.