And Then There Were Eleven

June 23, 2020

Oran P. Smith, Ph.D

Senior Fellow

There were eleven primaries decided tonight in runoffs that were forced due to the failure of any candidate to receive 50%+1 two weeks ago. It is difficult to have an ear to the ground in eleven campaigns, but here are a few broad observations on five of them.

  1. Dateline: Grand Strand. Beach Brawl Over. Incumbent Senator and SC Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Luke Rankin survived his strongest challenge since taking office as a Democrat in 1993. The reasons for his win will be debated by the political chattering class for years to come, but there seems little doubt that: Horry County tends to like legislative incumbents, popular U.S. Senator Tim Scott (who once represented the beach in the old SC-01 in Congress) endorsed Rankin, third place challenger Smith sat it out and endorsed neither Rankin nor Gallman, Rankin and his family enjoyed a likeability factor that distracted many conservative Republicans from his voting record, and Gallman’s divorce records hit like a beach ball bomb at the worst possible time for the challenger. Interesting Fact: Some precincts in the district split their tickets in the primary, supporting House incumbents but the Senate challenger. SC Senate District 33 runs roughly from the ocean to Coastal Carolina University.
  2. Dateline: Upstate. No Room on the Right. Though it took him a runoff to prove it, it looks like there is little room to the right of Bill Chumley. The attempt to “out-conservative” Ole Bill failed. Of course, it did. Interesting Fact: The retro logo of Chumley’s opponent Bennett was a pretty keen knock off of the famous Reagan-Bush ’84 brand. SC House District 35 is bordered on the north by I-85 in Spartanburg County and for some bizarre reason now includes six (6) precincts in Greenville County. Chumley lost only parts of the City of Woodruff.
  3. Dateline: Midlands. You Should Have Seen the Other Guy. R.J. May appears to be the survivor of the bloody slugfest that filled mailboxes and lit up Facebook. Popular incumbent Mac Toole endorsed May the weekend before the runoff which might have done the trick. SC House District 88 includes Edmund, Red Bank, South Congaree and Pine Ridge in Lexington County.
  1. Dateline: Pickens and More Pickens. Collins Wins Rematch. The story was the same as in 2018 in SC House District 5 as incumbent Neal Collins was forced into a runoff from his right flank by Allan Quinn. Collins took the runoff with Quinn last time with 58%. He got 53% tonight. Up the road, the historically moderate House District 3 seat went to Jerry Carter over school board member Phillip Bowers. Interesting Fact: On the renaming of Tillman Hall at Clemson University, Carter supported the name change, Bowers opposed it. SC House District 5 is anchored by Easley and runs along the western border with Greenville County. District 3 includes Clemson and Central and borders Oconee on the west and Anderson on the south.
  2. Dateline: Lowcountry. Purple-District Field is Set. The field has been set for the District 115 Special Election and General Election. The seat was won in a squeaker in 2018 by incumbent Republican Peter McCoy over Democrat nominee Carol Tempel by 51%-49% during a blue surge that sent Joe Cunningham to Congress. Tempel narrowly lost both runoffs tonight to Ms. Spencer Wetmore who earned the spot on the Special and General ballot against Republican Josh Stokes who was nominated two weeks ago. Interesting Fact: The original Democratic Primary may have set some kind of record. All three candidates were women. District 115 includes James Island, Folly Beach, and Kiawah in Charleston County.


Featured Image: Matt Burkhartt, Greenville News