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S.C. Senate Race: Dick Harpootlian Holds Off Benjamin Dunn

Headline writers get ready …

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There’s a Democratic bull in the Republican china shop …

Dick Harpootlian – a brash, independently wealthy Columbia, South Carolina attorney with a mile-wide populist streak – edged Afghan War veteran Benjamin Dunn in a contentious race to fill S.C. Senate District 20 (map), a seat vacated back in June by longtime GOP leader John Courson.

Harpootlian’s win flips this heavily gerrymandered district – which had been held by Courson for more than three decades prior to his resignation.  Courson relinquished his office upon pleading guilty to misconduct in office charges related to #ProbeGate, a sprawling investigation into corruption in state government.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Harpootlian captured 18,169 votes – or 51 percent of all ballots cast.  Dunn received 17,207 votes – or 49 percent of ballots cast.

That margin is closer than we would have expected, although Dunn benefited from a flood of special interest support – much of it organized by S.C. Senate majority leader Shane Massey.

Harpootlian’s win gives Democrats 19 out of 46 seats in the upper chamber of the S.C. General Assembly, although state senator William Timmons is expected to resign his state office after being elected on Tuesday to the U.S. House of Representatives.

That would leave the GOP with a 26-19 advantage over Democrats, although many of the ranking Republicans in the Senate are party-switchers who vote with the minority party on critical tax and spending issues.

So the governing majority will remain Democratic …

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How will Harpootlian fit in with his new colleagues?

As we noted throughout our coverage of this race, many GOP senators were privately cheering him on – believing he will emerge as a disruptive force within the Democratic Senate caucus.

The former solicitor, county council member and two-time chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party (SCDP) will serve out the remainder of Courson’s term and then stand for reelection in 2020 when the entire S.C. Senate is up for grabs.

Expect Republicans to come after him with everything they’ve got in that election …

For now, though, get ready for a steady barrage of headlines from a fearless, unfiltered politico who has never been at a loss for words.

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