Dr. Oran Smith

What Does The 2016 Primary Mean For Freedom?

June 17, 2016

Dr. Oran Smith

The results of the June 14 Democratic and Republican Primaries are in, and even though there are a few primary runoffs in two weeks, several trends have already emerged.

What do the results of legislative primaries mean for the ongoing fight for the bold, conservative reforms we need to move South Carolina forward?

The first trend: “conservative” credentials as an incumbent don’t mean you’re safe…especially in solid GOP districts. 

Whether you’re a bonafide conservative stalwart or whether you only rediscover your “conservatism” during election season, the voters know what they want.  And this year, they were clearly looking for bold, engaged candidates willing to say what they mean and mean what they say.

Incumbent Republicans like Reps. Donna Hicks, Ralph Kennedy and Doug Brannon were defeated by Steven Long, Cal Forrest, and Josiah Magnuson, perhaps some of the most right-leaning individuals ever nominated for public office in South Carolina. Sen. Wes Hayes lost his long-held seat to a younger, more conservative “Wes,” Wes Climer.  Well-known free market and social conservative Senators Tom Corbin and Larry Grooms, as well as libertarian Rep. Jonathan Hill, all won as well.

As for Sen. Mike Fair, his runoff opponent Will Timmons made opposition to Planned Parenthood and support support for school choice and gun rights a key part of his campaign. Jason Elliott, the victor against Rep. Wendy Nanney, publicly promised to “stand firm that life begins at conception and…defend this stance against any liberal attacks.” Elliott also campaigned on guns and support for school choice.

Senator Lee Bright and Reese Boyd, considered the most right-leaning candidates on the ballot in crowded fields of four candidates each, performed well and earned runoff spots.

On the Democratic side, one of the floor leaders for the flagship bill of the pro-life community, the “Pain Capable Unborn Child” bill, Rep. Robert Ridgeway, MD unexpectedly won his primary without a runoff.

Another trend is: demographics are determinative in a democracy.

Legislative district lines and the drawing of them by incumbents remain very predictive of the outcome. The district that was mostly Greenville and somewhat Spartanburg was won by the candidate from in Greenville County. The York County Senator who took on a large chunk of new voters saw those voters go to the challenger. Blue collar districts turned out white collar incumbents.

And…hard work still matters in legislative campaigns.

In most cases, this cycle, the old adage from Lyndon Johnson, “do everything and you will win,” proved accurate. The candidates who started early, went door to door, raised the needed cash, made the necessary phone calls, or a combination of all four were victorious on Tuesday.

Finally, there is the broader trend that results from all these factors taken together: the General Assembly, the Senate in particular, is undergoing a potentially seismic generational shift. On the GOP side, fresh, young, hardworking conservatives from single-member districts that reward conservatism will bode well for change…if the leadership lets it happen.

That means the leaders will need to hear from you! Stay tuned for how you can take a stand for bold, freedom ideas that will help South Carolina flourish.