Rep. Henry Brown (R-SC) will reportedly announce today that he is retiring from Congress. The Palmetto Scoop reports that significant factors in the decision were Brown's age -- he is 74 -- and also that he did not want to continue serving as a member of the minority party.
Brown was first elected in 2000 to a safe Republican seat. (His predecessor was Mark Sanford, who left Congress in order to honor a term-limits pledge. Sanford was of course later elected governor, and has been in the midst of a sex scandal since last spring.) But in 2008 he had an unusually close race, winning by only 52%-48%, at the same time as John McCain carried the district by 56%-42%. He was already facing challenges in the Republican primary from several credible candidates -- who will now effectively be the main GOP bench for the open seat.
A Republican source was optimistic about holding the seat, telling TPM: "Democrats might think they'll have a smidgen of a chance here, but as the year progresses they'll find it's not working out for them."
A Democratic source, on the other hand, looked to the infighting between the state GOP's moderates and hard-line conservatives. "Oh yeah, it definitely could be winnable," the source said. "It's clear that the fight within the Republican party has taken a toll on South Carolina's GOP members of Congress, and that's gonna matter straight through election day."
Late Update: Possible Democratic candidates, our Dem source tells us, are former minister and small business owner Robert Barber, businesswoman Linda Ketner (the 2008 nominee who came very close to upsetting Brown), and state Rep. Leon Stavrinakis.