Electoral defeat only emboldens Arik Bjorn to fight on

Facing defeat on election night, Arik Bjorn said he was all smiles.

While his supporters reached out to console him in his loss to U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson for South Carolina’s Second Congressional District seat, Bjorn said he had nothing to feel bad or sorry about. And, he said, he certainly didn’t feel sorry for himself.

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Arik Bjorn displays his Wilson volleyball, a constant companion on the campaign trail this season. (Photo by Hal Millard)

The reason was simple, he explained. Here was a Democratic candidate with virtually no money or professional campaign organization, a 43-year-old first-time candidate for any political office, and a single, full-time working father of a young daughter who had just won 109,074 votes (36 percent) in a staunchly conservative congressional district served by a seven-term incumbent. In addition to Bjorn, American Party candidate Eddie McCain, making his third to unseat Wilson, received nearly 4 percent of the vote with 11,404 ballots cast.

Far from being crushed, the Richland County public librarian said he was actually happy, even in defeat, and amazed at what his hard work and the efforts of his volunteer army of supporters and staff had been able to achieve in an otherwise bleak election for Democrats in the state and across the country.

And, he said, the defeat had only emboldened him. He will be back, he vowed. Bjorn said he will run again, if not for Congress then for some other office where he can help South Carolinians whom he believes have been left behind.

“This wasn’t my last rodeo,” he said in a phone interview from Columbia just minutes after Wilson had been declared the winner. “This was my first rodeo.”

“I’m doing fantastic,” he added. “Some people run for dogcatcher their first time, I ran for United States Congress. … I have nothing to be ashamed of.”

With Wilson back in office and Donald Trump as the nation’s President-elect, the stakes have been raised even higher, said Bjorn.

“I know I have established myself as a person of reason who has thought through the issues carefully, someone who takes stands on what he believes to be a better way,” he said. “The funny thing is, tomorrow morning when we wake up, Joe Wilson will still have voted no on the Violence Against Women Act, and unemployment in the district will still be 8.5 percent. Unfortunately, [62] percent of the people seem to be fine with that.

“In 2018, I want people to be nervous,” Bjorn added. “I want (GOP state Rep.) Kirkman Finlay to be nervous. I want anyone who wants the governor’s mansion to be nervous. I want Joe to be nervous…. There are a lot of options out there (for me).”

“The people of S.C. Congressional District Two did not have a viable other candidate for years,” Bjorn added. “They have one now. They have an outspoken leader in me. And when I say leader, really I just say the light of reason that’s in all of us. I’m just willing to express it and carry the burden of certain work.

“It was a ‘we’ campaign from day one,” he added. “I looked at my name on that campaign sign and everyday thought of the 680,000 people in the district who tomorrow one in seven won’t have healthcare, Barnwell still won’t have a hospital, homeless vets will still be walking from the VA down to my library, and we’ll still be one of the least-safe places in the nation for women to live. We have a lot of problems, and people need to face up to them.”

 

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U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson (Photo provided)

In his response to the win Tuesday night, Wilson said in a statement: “I am humbled by the overwhelming support I received from constituents across the Second Congressional District. I am grateful for your support, and want to thank all of the volunteers and community members who made today possible.

“Tonight’s victory is a victory for the people of the Second Congressional District of South Carolina,” he continued. “I look forward to continuing to work with all of my constituents to build a strong community, create jobs, and protect American families. I’ve devoted my career to public service and am grateful to continue to serve you in Congress for the next two years.”

Brielle Appelbaum, Wilson’s campaign manager, added: “Congressman Wilson led a positive, policy-based campaign that resonated with voters. Our team has worked hard to bring Congressman Wilson’s message of limited government and expanded freedom to even more voters.”

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