You'd think that experience would chase someone like Vic Rawl away from a fight against Sen. Jim DeMint.
Rawl wasn't new to politics in 2008 when he defeated vulnerable Republican incumbent Curtis Bostic for a seat on Charleston County Council. Rawl, a Democrat, had served eight years in the state House of Representatives and had been a circuit court judge for more than a decade.
DeMint is the new Tiger Beat poster boy for the burgeoning modern conservative movement and a formidable incumbent with a multimillion dollar war chest to prove it.
The senator has certainly emboldened the right, but he has frustrated Dems and moderates looking for their government to work — regardless of which politician is screaming the loudest.
Long before pledging to make healthcare reform President Barack Obama's "Waterloo," DeMint turned a cold shoulder to moderate Republicans and poo-pooed any talk of finding common-ground solutions for the nation's ills.
Rawl says there are folks who want practical, consensus-building answers to rising healthcare costs, undocumented aliens, financial insolvency, desperation among the unemployed, and the threat to our environment. Gridlock isn't just a baseless accusation against DeMint, it's a strategy the senator has used with pride.
"The attitude is that we're no longer interested in solving America's problems," says Rawl. "It's easy for anyone to say no. A two-year-old learns that. But you've got to have something else to respond with other than just, 'No.'"
DeMint has a bevy of conservative ideas, but there's little room for compromise. Rawl says he wants to bring everyone to the table and not just offer up unreasonable alternatives as talking points.
"It's much easier to sound bite an issue to death than to work on a solution," Rawl says.
He would look forward to addressing problems in the large healthcare reform law, but he says the foundation was essential to begin solving the problems of rising insurance costs and shrinking coverage. He also notes immediate changes in insurance coverage that are helping everyday Americans — including extended benefits to older college students and efforts to address insurance company abuses like refusing to pay for pre-existing conditions and denying or dropping coverage.
"It's an ongoing, long-term debate," Rawl says. "As the issues unfold, you address it as necessary."
Before Rawl can get to addressing those issues, he's got to jump over the looming financial hurdle in front of him. The candidate is practical enough to concede that he won't be able to match DeMint dollar for dollar, but Rawl says he can raise enough to be competitive. The rest is a ground game — a game made easier as DeMint focuses his attention on anywhere but South Carolina. The senator has been touring the nation, throwing his weight behind far-right conservatives in primary races in Indiana, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania.
"We need him here, and if he's not going to do it, I will," Rawl says.
With every campaign stop, Rawl says he's going out of his way to speak to local business leaders and South Carolina residents, regardless of political persuasion, offering an ear to their concerns, not just partisan quips.
"You've got to go to every crossroads in this state," Rawl says. "That's what I'm aiming to do."
Other candidates for U.S. Senate include Democrat Alvin Michael Green, Republican Susan Gaddy, and Green Party candidate Tom Clements.