In this news site’s infancy, we used to get excited about the results of South Carolina partisan straw polls (particularly “First in the South” presidential primary straw polls).
Now we realize they are irrelevant … having little to no bearing on the outcomes of the races they purport to predict.
Unlike public opinion polls (which scientifically survey a representative sample of the electorate), a straw poll is a popularity contest … usually convened by cliques of politically connected insiders. At their most significant, straw polls are turnout drills for a campaign’s grassroots operation – a sign of which candidate can rally activists to a particular location in sufficient numbers so as to lay claim to early “momentum” in a race.
Is the latest Greenville County “Republican” party straw poll any different? Not really … but it did represent the first “test” of the newly minted thirteen-candidate field for the Palmetto State’s fourth congressional district (map).
That’s right … thirteen GOP candidates filed for the seat being vacated by U.S. congressman Trey Gowdy.
These candidates got their first report cards on Monday night – receiving grades from the Greenville County GOP executive committee as well as invited guests to the party’s bimonthly soirée.
Who won the poll? Stephen H. Brown.
Wait … who?
Exactly. Brown, an Upstate labor attorney, is a former chairman of the Greenville County GOP (meaning he was working with a considerable home field advantage).
One of several last-minute filers for this seat, he received 26 of 77 votes from the executive committee (34 percent) and 16 of 99 votes (16 percent) from guest attendees at the event.
Tied for second place were state representative Dan Hamilton (who got 18 committee votes and nine guest votes) and Upstate radio host Josh Kimbrell (who received 23 guest votes and four committee votes).
A surprise third-place finisher? Political newcomer Shannon Pierce. The nurse-turned-businesswoman received 24 guest votes (the best of any candidate) but picked up only one vote from members of the executive committee.
Here are the full results of the straw poll …
Executive Committee Poll Results:
Dan Albert: 0 votes (0 percent)
Barry Bell: 0 votes (0 percent)
Mark Burns: 0 votes (0 percent)
Lee Bright: 10 votes (13 percent)
Stephen H Brown: 26 votes (34 percent)
James Epley: 9 votes (12 percent)
Dan Hamilton: 18 votes (23 percent)
Josh Kimbrell: 4 votes (5 percent)
John Marshall Mosser: 0 votes (0 percent)
Shannon Pierce: 1 vote (1 percent)
Justin David Sanders: 0 votes (0 percent)
Claude Schmid: 1 vote (1 percent)
William Timmons: 8 votes (10 percent)
Guest Attendee Poll Results:
Dan Albert: 1 vote (1 percent)
Barry Bell: 0 votes (0 percent)
Mark Burns: 1 vote (1 percent)
Lee Bright: 7 votes (7 percent)
Stephen H Brown: 16 votes (16 percent)
James Epley: 7 votes (7 percent)
Dan Hamilton: 9 votes (9 percent)
Josh Kimbrell: 23 votes (23 percent)
John Marshall Mosser: 2 votes (2 percent)
Shannon Pierce: 24 votes (24 percent)
Justin David Sanders: 1 vote (1 percent)
Claude Schmid: 2 votes (2 percent)
William Timmons: 6 votes (6 percent)
Of note? State senator William Timmons – one of the early frontrunners for this seat – finished sixth in the straw poll, although again we would caution against reading too much into that.
Of course Timmons hasn’t exactly endeared himself to the activist community in Greenville of late …
In South Carolina partisan primary elections, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes on the first ballot a runoff election between the top two vote getters is held two weeks later.
In a field this crowded, a runoff election is inevitable.
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