Politics

Runoff Roundup The Lowdown On This Week’s Partisan Primary Finale

This year’s runoffs are packed with close races.

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The grand finale to this month’s South Carolina partisan primary elections is here – although if these races were reality television shows, they probably would have gotten canceled already due to viewer disinterest.

Turnout in the initial round of balloting two weeks ago was atrocious … and could be historically anemic tomorrow.

In the Palmetto State, if no candidate receives a majority of votes on the primary ballot then the top two finishers advance to a head-to-head runoff election two weeks later. Runoffs are unique to partisan primaries, by the way. There is no runoff requirement in the general election in November.

Those candidates who didn’t get the votes needed to secure their party’s nomination give it another go on Tuesday. There’s one congressional and a dozen S.C. State House races at stake – and the results could carry significant consequences. Let’s take a closer look at what’s on the line.

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The biggest remaining race of course, is the GOP battle for the third congressional district. This devoutly conservative enclave runs along the Georgia and North Carolina borders in the northwestern portion of the Palmetto State. It includes all of ten counties – Abbeville, Anderson, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, McCormick, Oconee, Pickens, and Saluda – and parts of Anderson and Greenville counties. It is hardcore Republican – with former president Donald Trump receiving 69 percent of the vote there in the 2020 presidential election.

Nurse and Air National Guard lieutenant colonel Sheri Biggs is running for this seat with the backing of governor Henry McMaster and attorney general Alan Wilson. On the other side, evangelical pastor Mark Burns is campaigning with Trump’s endorsement.

Biggs made a big push in recent days attacking Burns’ campaign funding, including a prominent article in the GOP establishment-friendly organ – The (Charleston) Post & Courier. She followed that up with a statement calling her opponent a “fraud,” adding his “rhetoric doesn’t match reality.”

For his part, Burns is touting Trump’s endorsement. While not decisive by itself, that important backing helped two incumbent members of congress – William Timmons and Nancy Mace – fend off credible primary challengers two weeks ago. Burns is also running with the support of the third-place finisher in this race – state representative Stewart Jones.

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What’s unusual about a race this intense is how little interest it has generated outside the district. Even many hardcore political junkies around the state are rather ho-hum about it. 

Still, it is the top card attraction we’ll be watching on Tuesday night.

Of the dozen legislative runoffs, a handful stand out from the pack.

In Lexington County, incumbent senator Katrina Shealy is seeking another four-year term. She was a recipient of the JFK Profile in Courage Award last year as one of the so-called “senator sisters” who helped temporarily block enhanced abortion restrictions in the Palmetto State. Of the five women in that group, one is retiring and two others were defeated in their bids for reelection on June 11. Shealy now faces a tough challenge for the GOP nomination on her right flank from attorney Carlisle Kennedy. 

In Spartanburg County, it’s the case of the would-be “comeback kid.” When incumbent Scott Talley announced he wasn’t seeking reelection, it created an opening for arch-conservative former lawmaker Lee Bright, who held this seat from 2009 to 2017. Bright is hoping to make a triumphant return to the S.C. State House – but first he must vanquish state representative Roger Nutt for the GOP nomination.

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We’re also watching:

  • Senate District 10: A rural seat stretching from the Midlands to the Georgia border, incumbent Republican senator Billy Garrett is battling it out with dentist Charles Bumgardner.
  • Senate District 22, a rare competitive Democratic primary in which Ivory Thigpen and Overture Walker are seeking the nomination for a seat being vacated by the legislature’s lone independent.
  • Senate District 26, a swing seat eyed lustily by the GOP, this race pits Jason Guerry versus Chris Smith as Republican antagonists with the winner facing off in the fall against Democrat Russell Ott.
  • And in Kershaw County, where politics never disappoints, there’s that rarity of rarities in South Carolina — a runoff for both the Democratic and Republican nominations in Senate District 35, another swing seat. For the Democrats, it’s Austin Floyd Jr. and Jeffery Graham, while on the Republican side, it’s Lindsay Agostini versus Mike Jones.

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Where should you invest your political capital? Our Palmetto Political Stock Index has got you covered!

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Meanwhile, in the lower chamber two Republican races are particularly noteworthy. In Greenville County, pastor Chris Huff is slugging it out with establishment Republican Kerri Smith, while in neighboring Spartanburg County conservative Sarita Edgerton is battling JoAnne LaBounty.

Both Huff and Edgerton are aligned with the South Carolina Freedom Caucus. Noticeable by its absence during the runoff campaign is the Palmetto Truth Project, the $2 million effort acting at the behest of House “Republican” leadership that failed to defeat a single Freedom Caucus member two weeks ago.

Also on Tuesday in House races:

As always, look for insights into the results – and where things go from here – in a special edition of the Palmetto Political Stock Index on Wednesday.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Mark Powell (Provided)

J. Mark Powell is an award-winning former TV journalist, government communications veteran, and a political consultant. He is also an author and an avid Civil War enthusiast. Got a tip or a story idea for Mark? Email him at mark@fitsnews.com.

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2 comments

Katrina Go Home June 25, 2024 at 2:37 pm

Katrina Shealy seemingly has called on every stooge she has in her phone book to give an endorsement for her. Fellow Legislstors, Councilman, probably even the dog catcher, seem to be lined up to tell us what a “great” Senator she is and how we should be glad to suffer another four years of her serving the women of our great state. I can’t help but wonder if she has compromising pics of some of these stooges.

Anyway, I hope the majority of Lexington County citizens in her district are not easily fooled and vote for Carlisle Kennedy today in the runoff.

She seems to want to stay in Columbia rather than have to take care of her husband who is suffering with dementia or Alzheimer’s.

Reply
Thanks! June 25, 2024 at 10:54 pm

Thank you, Lexington Voters, for showing Katrina the door!

Reply

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