Politics & Government

In SC special election, GOP heads for runoff, Dems choose Parnell

In South Carolina’s much-watched 5th District special congressional race, Republicans were headed for runoff Tuesday to choose a successor to U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, while Democrats selected their nominee.

With just more than 31,000 votes counted, former state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-York, held the lead for the GOP’s nomination, just ahead of his S.C. House colleague Tommy Pope. Tom Mullikin, a Camden businessman and commander of the S.C. State Guard, and former state GOP chairman Chad Connelly were battling for third.

Meanwhile, Democrats were poised to nominate Archie Parnell, who had a big lead over his two challengers.

Archie Parnell won the Democratic nomination.

Ralph Norman
Ralph Norman held the lead for the Republican nomination but is headed toward a runoff.

Tommy Pope is likely to be in a runoff with Ralph Norman for the GOP nomination. Marchant, Bristow

The top two candidates in the Republican race will advance to a May 16 runoff. The Republican and Democratic nominees will face each other in the general election on June 20.

The seat came open when Mulvaney, the Indian Land Republican who has represented the district since 2011, was named director of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget by President Donald Trump.

Last November, Mulvaney – a prominent fiscal conservative and member of the often rebellious House Freedom Caucus – was elected to a fourth term by nearly 20 percentage points over Democratic challenger Fran Person.

Despite Mulvaney’s strong win last year, Democrats are eyeing the 5th District — alongside other special elections — as a potential congressional pick-up. Democrats have seen a spike in party activism since Republican Trump’s upset victory in November.

Past 5th District races have been more competitive than special elections in congressional districts in Kansas and Georgia, where Democrats also had stronger than average performances. S.C. Democrats hope that enthusiasm carries over into the June general election.

On the Republican side, Pope was considered an early favorite. A state representative from York County since 2010, Pope currently is speaker pro tempore of the S.C. House, that body’s No. 2-ranking post. Pope also is well-known as the prosecutor in the 1995 child murder trial of Susan Smith.

Ralph Norman resigned his seat in the SC State House to run for the 5th District seat.

Norman had the most money to spend in the race to succeed Mulvaney — $590,000, including a personal loan of $305,000 to his campaign.

Sheri Few, the education activist who ran a controversial ad criticizing the removal of the Confederate flag from the S.C. State House, was trailing the other GOP candidates badly, in the single-digit levels of support.

On the Democratic side, probable nominee Parnell is a Sumter native and former senior adviser to the international financial firm Goldman Sachs.

He faced a challenge from Alexis Frank, a 26-year-old Army veteran and current student from Rock Hill.

Frank launched an unlikely challenge to Parnell, who collected several high-profile endorsements in the race. But she was far behind Parnell in the early vote count Tuesday.

5th district race

With nine of 11 counties reporting

GOP nomination

Ralph Norman: 32 percent

Tommy Pope: 31 percent

Tom Mullikin: 17 percent

Chad Connelly: 15 percent

Sheri Few: 5 percent

Kris Wampler: 1 percent

Ray Craig: 0

Democratic nomination

Archie Parnell: 72 percent

Alexis Frank: 21 percent

Les Murphy: 7 percent