SC Politics

Palmetto Political Stock Index – Election Edition

A special post-primary installment …

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South Carolina’s 2024 partisan primary elections are officially in the books … but the fallout from this decidedly low-turnout affair is only just beginning to settle. Also, several races will require runoff elections in two weeks time – meaning we get to relive the pervasive apathy in two weeks time. While the vast majority of registered voters in the Palmetto State pressed the snooze button on these contests, those who did show up made some big decisions.

Two members of congress held on to their jobs … one by a razor-thin margin, the other by a landslide. Meanwhile, a Democratic icon went down in defeat and a powerful Republican leader suddenly finds himself on the ropes.

The votes from Tuesday’s state primary have been counted. Whose stock is rising? Falling? And where should you invest your political capital moving forward?



Over the past year, our founding editor Will Folks and political columnist Mark Powell have been monitoring developments on multiple fronts via our Palmetto Political Stock Index. As previously noted, each installment is an assessment of how our subjects are presently faring. Positive reports don’t reflect endorsements, and negative ones aren’t (necessarily) indicative of vendettas. We just call ‘em like we see ‘em.

To view the most recent index, click here. And to get your historical fix, click here. Got a hot “stock tip” for our consideration? Email Will (here) and/ or Mark (here). Just make sure to include “Palmetto Political Stock Index” in the subject line.

To the index!




Historic. Watershed moment. Milestone. Use any term you like; they all work in describing Tuesday’s romp at the polls for the S.C. Freedom Caucus. The conservative wing of the SCGOP entered Tuesday’s voting with seventeen seats in the S.C. House of Representatives. It emerged with at least twenty seats – and could pick up two additional seats in runoff elections scheduled for June 25, 2024.

Freedom Caucus-backed candidates also took down two key members of House GOP Leadership: Assistant majority leader Jay West (who lost to Lee Gilreath) and powerful S.C. labor, commerce and industry committee (LCI) chairman Bill Sandifer (who was defeated by Adam Duncan).

West’s defeat is particularly noteworthy as he was leading the charge to defeat what insiders call the “crazy caucus.”

“Ya’ll need to help us get rid of them,” he told a group of special interests earlier this year.

Now, in a classic case of the hunter becoming the hunted, it’s West who is out of a job.

What makes the Freedom Caucus’ victories even more compelling is how much time, money and energy the GOP establishment spent trying to kill this organization in the cradle. One tally of all the print mailers, radio and digital ads, billboards, etc. subsidized by the Palmetto Truth Project – a group linked to the S.C. House GOP caucus – conservatively totaled a cool $2.5 million. And that doesn’t include the money spent by pro-establishment third-party groups – or the pro-establishment candidates themselves.

What did all those millions produce? Not. One. Win.

At least not any wins against incumbent Freedom Caucus members …

In addition to the millions of dollars in paid political advertising, the uniparty’s propaganda bureau – The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier – repeatedly ranted against the Freedom Caucus on its editorial pages, even printing a nifty graphic in the campaign’s closing days identifying the candidates in each camp and urging readers to give Caucus members the boot. Well, Tuesday’s results tell you all you need to know about the paper’s rapidly waning influence among the GOP primary electorate.




The Upstate is poised to send its scandal-scarred congressman back to Washington, D.C. for a fourth term beginning in 2025. But incumbent William Timmons had to go through a brutal, bruising primary campaign to get there.

In the end, fourth district Republican voters opted to stick with Timmons – who has basically spent the last two years doubling as political soap opera character – over Freedom Caucus chairman Adam Morgan. Aided by a small turnout and a very big campaign budget – plus the backing of former president Donald Trump – Timmons eked out a win.

Observers had wondered how voters in the socially conservative Upstate would react to their congressman’s marital infidelity and divorce. It would seem many either turned a blind eye to those moral flaws – or shrugged them off completely.

That has some political observers now wondering how much sway traditional values voters still hold at the ballot box …

Or, it could be Timmons real ‘trump’ card – his former wife Sarah Timmons – came through for him in a big way by preemptively mitigating the issue. Not only did Sarah Timmons endorse her ex-husband, she actually took after his rival for allegedly using their divorce as campaign fodder.




South Carolina’s partisan primary elections may have been held yesterday, but the race for the state’s first congressional district GOP nomination was essentially decided on March 9, 2024. That was the day former president Donald Trump let bygones be bygones and endorsed incumbent congresswoman Nancy Mace.

It was a remarkable feat of political calisthenics for the congresswoman given the harsh words she had for him in the aftermath of the rioting at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021. As retribution, Trump endorsed Mace’s rival Katie Arrington in 2022 – only to see Mace handily beat back the challenge.

From the moment Trump weighed in on this race – in Mace’s favor – challenger Catherine Templeton never stood a chance. Forget her tortured (and totally unconvincing) argument that she was a “conservative outsider.” Turns out voters recognized immediately that being backed by ousted U.S. speaker Kevin McCarthy and receiving a king’s ransom in D.C. money does not an outsider make.

Like it or not, Trump commands the hearts of many GOP faithful. If Mace was Trump’s gal again, that was good enough for them. And once he endorsed her, “that’s all she wrote,” as the old saying goes.




While it failed to draw the same level of attention as congressional races to the east and south, the Palmetto State’s third district election remains no less important. We say “remains” because it is ongoing. As we projected, there will be a runoff in this race between MAGA pastor Mark Burns and lieutenant colonel/ nurse practitioner Sheri Biggs.

This seat became open after veteran congressman Jeff Duncan, who was dealing with his own extramarital affair and divorce, decided to retire.

In the battle to replace Duncan, Burns snagged 33.2 percent of the vote, with Biggs a very close second at 28.8 percent.

While it was previously believed state representative Stewart Jones – an original member of the S.C. Freedom Caucus – had a shot at making it to a runoff, his third-place finish is still important. That’s because Biggs and Burns will now both be fighting for his supporters – and his potential endorsement.

Of course Burns has already landed the biggest endorsement of them all: Trump’s.

In South Carolina partisan primaries, candidates who fail to win a majority of votes on the first ballot advance to a runoff race against their closest competitor two weeks later. Tuesday’s primary produced multiple runoff races, including nine S.C. Senate elections which will be decided on June 25, 2024.

To wit …




It was a very bad election for the so-called “Sister Senators” — the quintet of female Democrats and Republicans lauded by moderates and liberals for blocking a tough abortion ban from becoming law in 2023.

Two of the five are now lame ducks, while a third is fighting for her political life.

Kershaw County Republican Penry Gustafson was soundly defeated for reelection, soundly losing her seat after getting less than 18 percent of the vote. Gustafson will be replaced by Allen Blackmon.

Also going down, albeit in a cliffhanger, was state senator Sandy Senn. The incumbent from Charleston, S.C. lost her seat state representative Matt Leber by only 31 votes – out of 7,843 cast.

That leaves us with Lexington County’s Katrina Shealy, whose abortion votes earned her an official censure from her home county’s Republican party. Lexington GOP voters showed their displeasure at the polls on Tuesday. While Shealy won just over 40 percent of the vote, she fell well shy of the margin necessary to avoid a runoff. As a result, she will face off against attorney Carlisle Kennedy, who came in second with 36.2 percent. As happens so often in runoffs, the votes of third-place finisher Zoe Warren, who won 23.75 percent of the vote, could determine whether Shealy gets another four-year term or whether Kennedy will replace her.

The winner of the GOP runoff will face Democrat Byron Best in November – although given the staunch Republican lean of the district, the race between Shealy and Kennedy will be for all the marbles.



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The Colonel Top fan June 12, 2024 at 4:00 pm

Most importantly, one less lawyer legislator in the State House! Bye Dick!

Nanker Phelge June 12, 2024 at 5:03 pm

No surprise that Tweedledumb and Tweedledumber’s Index is so high on the Freedumb Caucus. Let us know how that works out for you.

Trump doesn’t care who he endorses as long as it’s a winner. After his Arrington flub no way would he not endorse Scarlet Letter Mace who was going to win with or without his endorsement.


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