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US Democrat wins upset where Trump tariffs threatened auto jobs
[WASHINGTON] A South Carolina Democrat on Tuesday staged one of the biggest upsets in the US midterm elections, in part after campaigning against tariffs he said threatened jobs with major European automakers.
The heavily Republican congressional district adjacent to Charleston, South Carolina, had not elected a Democrat representative in 40 years.
But local attorney and ocean engineer Joe Cunningham bested Republican Katie Arrington, who President Donald Trump emphatically endorsed.
Campaign watchers said Ms Arrington suffered badly as a result of her initial support for unpopular offshore oil-and-gas development.
But Mr Cunningham also distanced himself by vocally opposing Mr Trump's tariffs, which he said jeopardised local manufacturing jobs with companies such as Volvo, Boeing, Mercedes-Benz and BMW.
Volvo warned June that the US-China trade dispute could cause the company to backtrack on plans to export cars to China from South Carolina, undermining the creation of up to 4,000 jobs.
"These tariffs are dangerous and could be catastrophic for Lowcountry families," Mr Cunningham said. "In Congress, I will vote to overturn these tariffs."
Trav Robertson, chairman of the South Carolina Democratic Party, told AFP that Mr Cunningham's pro-trade message resonated with voters.
"South Carolina has been the beneficiary of the automotive industry," he said.
"There's no question that it played a role in the minds of people. We have always been a state that had a great relationship with those companies."