By Jim Ellis
May 18, 2017 — Tuesday’s special Republican SC-5 run-off election ended in almost as close a fashion as did the primary two weeks ago. Former South Carolina state representative and 2006 congressional nominee Ralph Norman has scored an apparent 203-vote victory over state House President Pro Tempore Tommy Pope. In the original May 2 vote, Pope nipped Norman by 135 cast ballots. Since no one was close to the majority mark, the secondary run-off election was thus necessitated.
The totals are unofficial, so a recount will likely be ordered, and it is not clear whether any absentee, provisional, or disputed ballots remain uncounted. Assuming the Norman margin holds, he will face Democrat Archie Parnell, a former Wall Street executive and congressional aide, in the special general vote scheduled for June 20. The winner of that election serves the balance of the current congressional term. The seat is vacant because former Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-Lancaster/Rock Hill) resigned to become director of President Trump’s Office of Management & Budget.
In the primary, the two candidates not only spilt the district, but they virtually halved their joint home county of York, the dominant population center. Such was not the case Tuesday, as Pope carried the entity, where 54 percent of the entire district’s ballots were cast, by a 1,414-vote margin, substantially better than his 187 ballot spread in the primary.
Despite Pope’s improvement in the anchor county, and especially when York considerably exceeded it’s share of the district vote (54 percent last night’s votes came from York County even though it contains only 34 percent of the CD’s population), it was not enough to overcome Norman’s strength in the rest of the district. Of the 11 counties, Norman carried nine, thus enabling him to close his deficit from York County and barely nip Pope when all of the votes were counted.
The biggest question coming from the election is just how long will it take to finally declare an official winner. Are there overseas votes coming from military voters, and how much of a fight will the Pope team wage in an attempt to overturn the final outcome? Considering the next election is June 20, the party leaders do not have an abundance of time to reach final conclusions.
In another interesting twist about the Palmetto State nomination process, it will be the state party executive committee that assumes the arbiter position for this contest and not the South Carolina Election Commission. State election law dictates that the political parties govern their own nomination systems.
Columbus area Rep. Pat Tiberi announced that he will not join the US Senate contest next year, bypassing the opportunity of squaring off with state Treasurer Josh Mandel (R) for the right to face Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) in the general election.
The congressman indicated that he could not fully concentrate on a Senate campaign with the tax reform legislation and healthcare reform package passing through the Ways & Means Committee, of which he is a key member.
Already, Tiberi had amassed more than $6 million in his campaign account, more than both Sen. Brown and state Treasurer Mandel have attracted. Thus, the early signals pointed to him moving toward the Senate race.
Without Rep. Tiberi in the statewide contest, Mandel should have a clear path to the nomination, a post he also attained in 2012 when he went onto lose to Sen. Brown in a 51-45 percent final result. Considering that President Obama was on the same ballot, carrying the state, and driving turnout, Mandel’s performance proved respectable.
It is likely we will see the Brown-Mandel rematch in 2018, and this promises to lead to a highly competitive political campaign.