SC Politics

Russell Ott To Challenge Dick Harpootlian In SC Senate Democratic Primary

State lawmaker files paperwork for newly drawn Midlands Senate seat …

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Last month’s decision by South Carolina state senator Nikki Setzler to step down at the end of his current term in office has set up a high-profile fight for a newly drawn Midlands-area Senate seat.

After nearly half a century in office, Setzler announced his impending departure in a lengthy, self-congratulatory tome published in The (Columbia, S.C.) State newspaper.

State senator Dick Harpootlian – who resides in the recently reconfigured S.C. Senate District 26 (.pdf) – announced his candidacy the day after Setzler indicated he would not run again. An über-successful trial lawyer and veteran Democratic politico, Harpootlian is the odds-on favorite to win this seat.

According to our sources, though, the bomb-throwing lawyer – who resides in downtown Columbia, S.C. – will not be coasting to the Democratic nomination unchallenged. Announcing his candidacy for this same seat this week? State representative Russell Ott of St. Matthews, S.C.

(Click to View)

Rep. Russell Ott speaks during session in Columbia, S.C. on Thursday, April 28, 2022. (Travis Bell/STATEHOUSE CAROLINA)

On Monday (February 5, 2024), Ott filed paperwork with the S.C. Ethics Commission (SCSEC) to campaign for this seat – loaning himself $1,000 to do so. Earlier today, he informed supporters of his plans to run for the district – which includes parts of Richland, Lexington, Orangeburg and Calhoun counties.

Ott’s decision sets up a primary fight against Harpootlian, who currently represents a heavily gerrymandered district drawn over a decade ago for former S.C. Senate president John Courson.

Harpootlian– who has gained international recognition representing convicted killer Alex Murdaugh – won this seat in a special election in November 2018 after Courson resigned amid an influence-peddling scandal. He was subsequently reelected to a full, four-year term in 2020 – but his district was drawn off the map ahead of this year’s election to accommodate population shifts toward the booming Palmetto Lowcountry.

Ott has represented the citizens of S.C. House District 93 since October 2013. Like his father, former state representative Harry Ott, he is a farmer and a businessman.



The newly drawn Senate seat Harpootlian and Ott are competing for leans Democratic – thanks to the heavily liberal “Little Moscow” enclave around the state capitol. However, several “Republican” candidates are reportedly considering running for it.

Among them? State representative Micah Caskey, Lexington county school member Beth Branham and Lexington County councilman Todd Cullum.

The filing period for partisan primary races in South Carolina begins at 12:00 p.m. EST on March 16, 2024 and closes on April 1, 2024. Partisan primary races will be held on June 11, 2024, and if no candidate receives a majority of ballots in a given race, a runoff election will be held two weeks later – on June 25, 2024.

This is a developing story … please check back for updates …



(Travis Bell Photography)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina and before that he was a bass guitarist and dive bar bouncer. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and eight children.



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Please Tell Me February 7, 2024 at 2:32 pm

How does the Ott family stand on gun rights issues? Couldn’t be any worse than Dick, or could they? Anyone know?

jbl1a February 7, 2024 at 7:55 pm

They are democrats so chance are if you are pro 2A he’s not going to represent you very well.

jbl1a February 7, 2024 at 7:56 pm

Successful lawyer? Bet Murdaugh isn’t thinking that right now

Please Tell Me February 8, 2024 at 10:29 am

Thank you!

Vote Harpo February 8, 2024 at 5:17 pm

Say want you want about Harpo as a lawyer, but there is no doubt he has given both the Republicans and the Democrats some tough pills to swallow during his time in the Senate. Wasn’t he one of the only Senators to come out against the massive public money going into the Carolina Panthers facility in Rock Hill. Remind me how that worked out. We should have listened to Dick.

Andrea February 9, 2024 at 1:22 pm

What is the odds on favorite Republican Chris Smith not mentioned. He announced on September 12 and is a leading candidate…

Can’t help but feel that this is more propoganda trying to get us to vote against true conservatives.


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