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2020 SC Primary Night Live Blog

Reflections, recriminations, ruminations, results …

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A favorite tradition of regular FITSNews readers (and hopefully one our new readers will like) is our election night live blog … a quick-hit, from-the-hip take on the various races we are watching as voters in South Carolina head to the polls to cast their ballots in partisan primary elections.

This has been an election cycle unlike any other in South Carolina … and it almost didn’t happen thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 hit right as candidates were filing for office … and in addition to complicating the electoral process (more on that below) it proceeded to drown out the news cycle for weeks on end.

Then, just as the primary election season was hitting its homestretch, the nation (including South Carolina) was rocked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day. Once again, headlines across the state were dominated by news of Floyd’s killing and the ensuing unrest.

Which meant hardly anyone was paying attention to political contests … again.

Will the lack of focus on these elections impact voter turnout? And how will voter turnout (whatever it winds up being) impact the outcome of these races?

We are about to find out …

Remember as you are reading to click that “refresh” button often so you can see the latest entries (which appear first in the feed below). And as always, if you want to be a part of the fun send us your pics, vids, questions and comments. You can hit us up on our tip line, via email, Facebook or Twitter.

To the blog …

THE LIVE BLOG

11:59 p.m. EDT – SIGNING OFF …

Thanks to everyone for hanging out with us tonight!

We will be back at it in the morning with updated results and analysis on today’s partisan primaries …

11:47 p.m. EDT – TURNOUT SURGE …

(Via: Getty Images)

With four counties yet to fully report their results, turnout in the 2020 Republican and Democratic partisan primary elections in South Carolina now stands at 713,908. That is already an increase of nearly 15 percent over the 621,841 ballots that were cast in the partisan primary elections in 2018. And again, we still have a lot of votes left to count …

11:33 p.m. EDT – WATCHING THAT LINDSEY GRAHAM WINNING PERCENTAGE DROP …

U.S. senator Lindsey Graham easily dispatched his three low-budget, virtually unknown GOP primary challengers tonight (as expected), but his underwhelming margin of victory among voters of his own party keeps shrinking.

At last count, Graham was drawing only 67.11 percent of the GOP electorate … a bright red warning sign headed into his general election battle against Democrat Jaime Harrison this fall.

Can Democrats capitalize?

They haven’t won a statewide race in more than a dozen years, but this is the best shot they have had in a long time …

11:25 p.m. EDT – #SC1: NANCY MACE ISSUES STATEMENT ON HER GOP PRIMARY WIN

Second-term state representative Nancy Mace – the newly minted GOP nominee for the first congressional district – just sent out a statement on her convincing win tonight.

Here is what she had to say …

“Today is a great day for a lot of reasons. For every independent thinker in the Lowcountry, it’s day one of our new mission – to unite together to take back the Lowcountry. 

I insisted on running a positive campaign about the voters and their issues and why I was the best candidate to represent them. 

I’m proud to say we did it. 

My democrat opponent votes with Nancy Pelosi 85 percent of the time. That is not what most of the Lowcountry believes or deserves. 

The fight to end Nancy Pelosi’s hold on our district starts tonight. 

I have a message for my opponent, for Speaker Pelosi, for the National Democrat Party – I’m coming for you.  We are coming for you. We are going to take back this seat for the Lowcountry.”

Bold … and aggressive.

11:09 p.m. EDT – AWWWWW …

=

10:55 p.m. EDT – LUKE RANKIN SENATE RACE UPDATE …

(Via: Columbia SC Photographer Travis Bell)

One of the races we have been watching closely is the battle for S.C. Senate District 33 (.pdf), where “former” Democrat Luke Rankin is seeking an eighth term in office.

Rankin is the poster politician for the failed status quo in the Palmetto State, and we have been vocal in opposing him for years.

As of this writing, Rankin is currently leading a three-way race with 41.2 percent of the vote – ahead of pro-life activist John Gallman (33.1 percent) and Carter Smith (25.7 percent), another staunch social conservative.

If that holds, he would be forced into a runoff election with whichever candidate finishes second …

10:50 p.m. EDT – TURNOUT DRILL …

Wow … the total number of ballots cast in this year’s partisan primary elections in South Carolina has now climbed to 643,995. Two counties have yet to report results, and seven counties have yet to fully report their results – but this is tremendous turnout for a primary election.

Especially in a year when statewide elected officials (governor, attorney general, treasurer, etc.) were not on the ballot …

And again, especially with so much other news drowning out the races …

10:29 p.m. EDT – RICHLAND COUNTY SENATE REMATCH ON TAP …

Last month, we covered the race for S.C. Senate District 20 (.pdf), one of the few competitive legislative districts in the Palmetto State. Tonight, Republicans selected their standard-bearer to go up against Democrat Dick Harpootlian in the November general election for this swing seat.

Benjamin Dunn won the GOP primary running away … setting up a rematch with Harpootlian in the fall.

Chapin, S.C. businessman Randy Dickey was supposed to give Dunn a run for his money, but it didn’t pan out that way.

This is a huge defeat for Senate majority leader Shane Massey, who backed Dickey in this race behind the scenes …

10:27 p.m. EDT – WAITING FOR HORRY COUNTY RESULTS …

10:16 p.m. EDT – LINDSEY GRAHAM’S PRIMARY SHOWING UNDERWHELMS

For months, this news outlet has been arguing that if Democrats are to have any shot at upsetting U.S. senator Lindsey Graham in November they need to effectively segment and suppress the Republican electorate.

Can they do it?

As of this writing, Graham has seen his percentage of the GOP primary vote tonight drop to 68.9 percent – a number that comes against three low-budget primary challengers no one had ever heard of before.

Translation? Graham is ripe for the taking if Democrats can finally figure out how to run general elections in the Palmetto State …

10:02 p.m. EDT – GREENVILLE COUNTY COUNCIL DOWN TO ONE VOTE?

Get this … a county council race in Greenville county featuring more than 5,200 ballots cast is currently down to one vote. With all failsafe and provisional ballots counted, local businessman Kenneth Cosgrove (no, not the guy from Mad Men) has 2,660 votes while local businessman Stan Tzouvelekas has 2,559 votes.

This race was for an open seat on council …

What happens now? Well, we wait for any lingering absentee ballots to be mailed in … but this race is clearly going to fall within the one percent threshold that triggers an automatic recount in South Carolina.

So … stay tuned …

9:56 p.m. EDT – #RACECALL: FLORENCE COUNTY SHERIFF

(Via: Provided)

It’s official … former S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) trooper T.J. Joye is the Republican nominee for sheriff of Florence county, having defeated chief deputy Glen Kirby in a bruising head-to-head battle.

Democrats, look lively … this was a vicious primary fight, and there is significant bad blood among GOP primary voters in the Pee Dee right now.

9:49 p.m. EDT – TURNOUT DRILL …

As of this writing, 424,566 partsan primary ballots have been cast so far this year … and we still have ten counties left to report (and 12 counties that have only partially reported).

That is incredibly strong turnout, particularly in an election cycle that was drowned out by a pair of national news stories …

9:45 p.m. EDT – FLORENCE COUNTY SHERIFF UPDATE …

Sources tell us Florence county chief deputy Glen Kirby has informed his command staff that he has lost his race against former S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) trooper T.J. Joye.

Getting reliable vote totals out of the Pee Dee region of the state this evening has been difficult, but we will keep a close eye on this hotly contested Republican primary battle …

9:40 p.m. EDT – #RACECALL: UNION SHERIFF

9:05 p.m. EDT – WELCOME TO MOE’S!

(Via: Moe Brown for Congress)

Former University of South Carolina football star Moe Brown is officially the Democratic nominee for the Palmetto State’s fifth congressional district – meaning he has earned the right to go up against first-term Republican Ralph Norman in November.

This district was a top Democratic takeover target in 2017, but the party came up short in a special election to fill the seat vacated by former White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

A native of Belton, South Carolina, Brown played four seasons for the Gamecock football team under head coach Steve Spurrier from 2006 to 2009 – serving as team captain during his senior season.

He handily defeated his Democratic rival Sidney Moore by a 2-to-1 margin in the primary for this race …

8:55 p.m. EDT – NANCY MACE’S GOP VICTORY PRAISED

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based political action committee which describes itself as being “exclusively dedicated to winning a Republican Majority in the House of Representatives” is touting Nancy Mace’s victory in the GOP primary for the Palmetto State’s first congressional district …

“Nancy Mace’s victory is welcome news for South Carolina voters that will have Congressman Cunningham running for the hills,” said CLF President Dan Conston. “Joe Cunningham is a phony who pretends to be a moderate while rubber stamping the Democrats’ ever-increasingly dangerous and extreme agenda. Nancy Mace will expose Cunningham as the fraud that he is and end his fake moderate façade for good.”

Cunningham is a fraud?

Well …

8:47 p.m. EDT – SCVOTES THANKS ITS PEEPS …

Here is the statement after a long day of voting from S.C. Election Commission (SCVotes.org) executive director Marci Andino

The passion and dedication of South Carolinians was on display at the polls today. We’re grateful to voters for their patience as they waited to cast their ballots, and we want to thank the poll workers and election officials across the state for their tireless work in what has proved to be a long day under trying conditions.”

Indeed. Thanks to those who manned the polls today during unprecedented times.

While there are obviously plenty of counties in South Carolina with serious election issues (ahem, Richland), Andino and her crew do excellent work at the state level.

9:09 p.m. EDT – GENERAL ELECTION TRASH TALK UNDERWAY …

I can’t stand liberal strategist Tyler Jones, but he has a point …

9:00 p.m EDT – #RACECALL: NANCY MACE

(Via: Getty Images)

Second-term state representative Nancy Mace is officially the Republican nominee for South Carolina’s first congressional district. With more than a quarter of the votes counted, Mace is drawing more than 60 percent of the ballots cast – which should be more than enough for her to avoid a runoff election against second-place finisher Kathy Landing.

This means Mace has won the right to run against Democrat Joe Cunningham this fall.

As we have frequently noted, this race is going to be fiercely fought by national special interests … and by the two major political parties, as Republicans have designated the first district as their top takeover target.

8:40 p.m. EDT – #RACECALL: JOE WILSON

U.S. congressman Joe Wilson has easily beaten back another Republican challenger to win the GOP nomination in the South Carolina second congressional district. Wilson has won ten previous elections for this seat, but he faces a tougher-than-expected fight from well-funded Democrat Adair Ford Boroughs in November.

8:37 p.m. EDT – UNION COUNTY SHERIFF SCUTTLEBUTT …

For those of you who have been following the Union county, South Carolina sheriff’s race, it has been quite the rollercoaster.

According to our sources, the scandal-scarred incumbent – third-term sheriff David Taylor – is going down in defeat. Taylor is reportedly in line to finish in third place in this contest, behind former magistrate Jeff Bailey and Carl H. Jennings Jr., who will face off in a runoff election on June 23, 2020.

(Click to view)

(Via: Provided)

Oh, we are also told there could be worse news coming for Taylor later this week … like, news involving handcuffs. However, those reports were not immediately confirmed by our law enforcement sources.

8:27 p.m. EDT – PROGRESSIVE GROUP VOWS TO SUPPORT JAIME HARRISON AGAINST LINDSEY GRAHAM

With the general election between U.S. senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison officially underway, one progressive group is already weighing in on the contest …

“The closer we get to Election Day, the harder we need to work to turn out voters of color in vital states like South Carolina,” said Alex Morgan of the Progressive Turnout Project. “Lasting racial and economic justice in South Carolina starts by electing leaders like Jaime Harrison, who will be a powerful voice for voters of color in the Senate. As we turn to the general election, it is clear that South Carolina cannot afford another six years of Lindsey Graham’s corruption and inaction.”

“Progressive Turnout Project will be on the ground in South Carolina this summer and fall to speak with voters of color to make sure their voices are heard on Election Day,” Morgan added.

We wonder … will they be bringing this guy with them? LOL …

8:15 p.m. EDT – SCGOP INVOLVEMENT (UPDATE)

As we have noted on several occasions in recent weeks, the S.C. Republican Party (SCGOP) controversially inserted itself into several partisan primary races this cycle – which is unprecedented in our years of covering Palmetto politics.

While the legality of the party’s meddling remains undetermined, what sort of impact is it having?

So far, the incumbent lawmaker who was opposed by the party – state representative Jonathon Hill – is leading his opponent with 55.33 percent of the vote.

No data is in yet from the two Horry county races which featured party involvement …

8:07 p.m. EDT – #SC1: NANCY MACE JUMPS OUT TO EARLY LEAD …

(Via: Provided)

Because state representative Nancy Mace (above) has been on the national radar for some time, a lot of Washington, D.C. operatives are tracking her performance tonight in the South Carolina first district GOP primary race. Among them? Our intrepid “D.C. Operative.” Here is his take on the race …

Mace really needs to win the nomination outright, otherwise the runoff is going to look like the food fight scene from Animal House meets a Junior League meeting with Nikki Haley hurling sweet potato pies at Mace two at a time.   

Ha! That friction between Mace and Haley is real, people …

Mace is drawing 62.26 percent of the vote so far, for those of you keeping score at home … which if she can keep it up will easily be enough to advance to a runoff against incumbent Democrat Joe Cunningham.

8:05 p.m. EDT – SCGOP WEIGHTS IN ON LINDSEY GRAHAM VICTORY …

The statement we just received from party chairman Drew McKissick

“Senator Graham has worked tirelessly for the people of South Carolina, defended Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh, and has supported President Trump. Now, the work begins in earnest to beat Democrat Jaime Harrison in the fall. We’re ready and eager to make that happen and re-elect Senator Graham in November.”

Yeah … but … those lady bugs …

8:00 p.m. EDT – #RACECALL: LINDSEY GRAHAM

As expected, U.S. senator Lindsey Graham has easily captured the GOP nomination for a fourth term in the U.S. Senate. Graham faced only token opposition … and is currently getting 77.17 percent of the GOP primary vote.

We will watch that needle as the night progresses …

(Oh, and do NOT scroll down for the lady bugs. No really … don’t do it).

7:53 p.m. EDT – LEXINGTON COUNTY COUNCIL RACE UPDATE

One of the local races we covered a bit over the last week (here and here) was in our founding editor’s home county of Lexington …

According to our sources, things are looking good so far for newcomer Charli Wessinger – who was a big underdog in her head-to-head GOP primary matchup against former county council chairman Johnny Jeffcoat.

Wessinger reportedly crushed Jeffcoat in four Chapin, S.C.-area precincts – drawing 1,228 votes to 660 voters for Jeffcoat. While the veteran politician still has several of his strongholds yet to report, sources familiar with this race tell us it is a steep climb.

7:50 p.m. EDT – WELL, THIS IS INTERESTING …

We just got a text message from a Republican operative who is running around a dozen races across the state this evening. Here is what he had to say …

I’m hearing lots of anecdotal stories about a huge number of Dems voting in GOP races. Are you hearing that?

No, but that is interesting in light of our next item …

7:40 p.m. EDT – SAD WE HAVE TO REMIND PEOPLE OF THIS …

Anyone wanna volunteer to teach civics in South Carolina’s government-run schools?

7:40 p.m. EDT – IF YOU HATE YOURSELF AND WANT TO BE SCARRED FOR LIFE …

(Via: Getty Images)

Then read the Lindsey Graham “Ladybugs” post …

(Thankfully) it is satire … and (more thankfully) it was removed from the website where it was originally posted.

But … yeah … still … can’t unread that, people. Can’t unread that …

7:36 p.m. EDT – #SC1 HOMEMADE SIGN PUTS GOP CANDIDATE ON BLAST …

So, this was one of the most bizarre homemade signs that was sent to us on election day …

(Via: Provided)

As we noted in a tweet, we have “no idea” where the sign-maker came up with this allegation …

7:31 p.m. EDT – MANDY MATNEY IS IN THE HOUSE!

Now it’s officially a party as our news director Mandy Matney is in the house …

Which reminds us you can follow Mandy here and email her here

7:20 p.m. EDT – TAKE THE UNDER ON THAT MICHAEL LaPIERRE JOKE …

The man challenging U.S. senator Lindsey Graham for the GOP nomination isn’t going to win tonight. Or come close. In fact, Republican challenger Michael LaPierre will be lucky to get 15 percent of the primary vote against the three-term incumbent, in our estimation …

One of the jokes we have heard making the rounds about LaPierre’s candidacy? Whether his vote total will exceed his career on-base percentage as a minor league baseball player for the now-defunct Calgary Expos back in 1983.

So … where is the over-under action on 18.2 percent? Take the under, people … take the under.

Although that “Lady G” thang … wow.

7:10 p.m. EDT – THE FLORENCE SHERIFF’S RACE …

(Via: Provided)

By far the most contentious local contest we followed this election cycle was the Republican primary race for sheriff of Florence county – which pitted chief deputy Glen Kirby against former S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) trooper T.J. Joye.

This race was nasty, people … and the acrimony flowing from it has caused lasting damage to the Republican establishment in this rural Pee Dee population center.

Frankly, we don’t like either one of these GOP candidates but unfortunately one of them will be his party’s nominee for sheriff when the evening is over …

7:07 p.m. EDT – #SC1: CAN KATHY LANDING MAKE IT INTO A RUNOFF?

The Mount Pleasant, S.C. town councilwoman ran a good campaign against heavily favored state representative Nancy Mace … will it be enough to keep this race going for two more weeks?

7:04 p.m. EDT – RICHLAND COUNTY PROBLEMS (AGAIN) …

It wouldn’t be an election in South Carolina without scandal-scarred Richland county completely dropping the ball. Here is the first of what we suspect will be MANY tips related to electoral incompetence in the Palmetto State’s most populous county … which we have written about FAR too often.

Voting in SC especially in Richland County has never been easy. For today’s primary several precincts were closed so the voting at Spring Valley High School became a 3 plus hour line outside in 90 degree weather or you could wait for 5 hours in your car for curbside voting. Unbelievable!!

7:00 p.m. EDT – POLLS ARE CLOSED!

(Via: Getty Images)

Well, except for the one we just mentioned below …

Oh, and this is also worth remembering if you are in line to vote by 7:00 p.m. EDT, you don’t get sent home when the clock strikes the hour. Anyone who is in line gets to cast their ballot.

6:53 p.m. EDT – VOTING IN COLLETON PRECINCT EXTENDED

Voting at the Hendersonville precinct in Colleton county, South Carolina was extended for one hour this evening (until 8:00 p.m. EDT) after a woman reportedly showed up at the precinct and told the poll worker “I’ve got Covid-19.” The poll worker promptly stood up and walked off, we’re told …

6:42 p.m. EDT – QUESTION: “CAN YOU VOTE IN ONE PARTY’S PRIMARY BUT ANOTHER PARTY’S RUNOFF?”

No … which we think is ridiculous.

6:34 p.m. EDT – STATEWIDE ABSENTEE BALLOT UPDATE

As of this writing, state election officials tell us they have received a whopping 171,104 absentee ballots with a little under a half-hour remaining for them to be returned. That is more than three times the number of absentee ballots cast in the last partisan primary election in 2018.

6:22 p.m. EDT – #SC1: A WORD ABOUT RUNOFFS …

(Via: Provided)

One of the biggest questions we have tonight is whether second-term state representative Nancy Mace (above) will win the GOP nomination for the Palmetto State’s first congressional district on the first ballot or be forced into a runoff with Mount Pleasant, S.C. town councilwoman Kathy Landing.

Either way, this is a great opportunity to explain how runoffs work: In partisan primary elections in South Carolina if no candidate draws more than fifty percent of the vote on the first ballot, then the top two vote-getters advance to a head-to-head runoff election two weeks later.

If Mace fails to draw fifty percent tonight, she and Landing would square off on June 23, 2020.

6:16 p.m. EDT – REMEMBER, MOST RACES ARE NOT COMPETITIVE

As fun as it is to write on the handful of races in the Palmetto State that are competitive, it is important to remember that most of them are, well … not. For some background on why that is the case, click here …

6:08 p.m. EDT – TURNOUT “LOW TO MODERATE”

State election officials tell us turnout across the Palmetto State is being reported as “low to moderate” but they won’t have any official numbers for us until later. A big reason for this? The surge in absentee ballots due to Covid-19 …

-FITSNews

*****

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