By Jim Ellis
May 3, 2017 — Voters in north-central South Carolina’s 5th District cast ballots yesterday in partisan primaries as the people voted to choose a replacement for ex-Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill), now director of the Office of Management and Budget.
Unlike the four previous special elections in California, Kansas, Montana, and Georgia, the Palmetto State neither holds a jungle primary nor a nominating convention. Just as in the regular election cycle, candidates first run in partisan primaries. If no one secures a majority in the first vote, partisan run-offs occur in a short two-week time frame under South Carolina election law. The eventual nominees then advance to the general election.
In a district that voted 57-39 percent for President Trump, and elected Rep. Mulvaney four times by an average of 57.6 percent of the vote, including his initial percentage when defeating veteran incumbent Rep. John Spratt (D) in 2010, the Republicans were heavy favorites to hold the seat in the current special election process.
Seven Republicans are on the ballot, and most observers agree that former state representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman and state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope were the two leading candidates. With five others on the ballot, it appeared unlikely that either Norman or Pope would command a majority of the primary vote, hence a May 16 GOP run-off was viewed as the likely outcome of yesterday’s voting.
Norman had the most in the way of funding, securing almost $600,000 according to the pre-primary Federal Election Commission filing report through the period ending April 12. Half of that amount was from a candidate loan, however. State Rep. Pope, who was planning to run for governor had not Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster (R) become the incumbent state chief executive when Gov. Nikki Haley (R) was appointed US Ambassador to the United Nations, had only banked $226,002 during the same period, which was a surprisingly low amount.
Both of these candidates have cut television ads, but more airings have been through the digital medium rather than the airwaves. (See below samples)