Democrats in Lancaster county, South Carolina made a bold move on Monday, submitting the name of their local party chairman Keith T. Grey as a last-minute candidate for the S.C. House of Representatives. Grey is seeking the District 45 (.pdf) seat currently held by Republican Brandon Newton – a 25-year-old college staffer seeking his third term in office.
The problem? Sir Isaac Newton’s third law of motion – “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” – took effect almost immediately.
Local Republicans countered by submitting the name of their own party chair – Sandy McGarry – as a candidate to run against state representative Mandy Powers Norrell, who represents neighboring S.C. House District 44 (.pdf).
No other candidates filed for either of these two districts, meaning there will be no competitive primary races. The general election battle for each seat will pit party chair versus incumbent lawmaker.
According to our sources, neither Newton nor Norrell were engaged in the local party drama that resulted in the legislative challengers filing to run against them. In fact, both reportedly declined to support such challenges against their border rivals.
Which party is most likely to derive some benefit from the looming Lancaster “border wars?”
The GOP is unlikely to lose Newton’s seat – but it could mount a credible challenge against Norrell, who was her party’s nominee for lieutenant governor in 2018.
“Her people created a very difficult situation for her,” one ranking Republican lawmaker told us, referring to the local filing drama.
That’s true …
U.S. president Donald Trump carried the district Norrell represents with 58.4 percent of the vote in 2016 – making it a potential top takeover target for the GOP. Still, the 46-year-old attorney was not challenged last fall. In fact, she has not been challenged since she won this seat back in 2012 – drawing 56.8 percent of the vote in that election.
One reason? Norrell remains tremendously popular in her district with voters of both parties, and has drawn considerable independent support thanks to her leadership on the issue of decriminalizing medical marijuana.
She is also well-regarded among lawmakers of both parties at the S.C. State House, which could help limit the level of institutional support McGarry receives.
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As for Newton (above, left), Trump carried his district with 60.4 percent of the vote in 2016 and he has easily dispatched Democratic challengers in each of the last two elections – drawing 65.7 percent of the vote in 2016 and 62.5 percent of the vote in 2018.
We expect him to easily dispatch Grey, as well …
In the interest of full disclosure, Norrell has represented this news outlet in legal matters and is a close friend of our founding editor Will Folks – whose family has deep roots in Lancaster, S.C.
Having said that, our news outlet has an open microphone policy – which we look forward to extending to Norrell, McGarry, Newton and Grey (and anyone looking to weigh in substantively on their candidacies) over the course of this election.
Every single seat in the 170-member S.C. General Assembly is up for election in 2020. That includes all 46 S.C. Senate districts and all 124 seats in the S.C. House of Representatives. Unfortunately, very few of these seats are ever contested – and even fewer are contested credibly.
Filing for these offices closed yesterday (Monday, March 30, 2020) at 12:00 p.m. EDT. Partisan primary elections are currently scheduled for June 9, 2020 – with runoff elections scheduled for two weeks later, June 23, 2020.
In South Carolina partisan primary races featuring three or more candidates, if no one receives a majority of votes (fifty percent plus one vote) a runoff election is held two weeks later between the top two vote-getters.
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