Politics & Government

SC congressional primary too close to call, heads to recount

Ralph Norman speaks during a debate in Rock Hill in 2006.
Ralph Norman speaks during a debate in Rock Hill in 2006. AP file photo

The runoff election for the Republican nomination to replace Mick Mulvaney in South Carolina’s 5th District is too close to call.

With all precincts reporting, the difference in votes between former lawmaker Ralph Norman and state legislator Tommy Pope on Tuesday night was less than 1 percent, meaning a recount is automatic.

Norman received 17,772 votes to Pope’s 17,572 votes.

Mulvaney vacated the 5th District seat to become White House budget director.

The runoff was required when voters in the Republican-leaning district gave Norman and Pope roughly equal support while rejecting the flamethrowers and outsiders in a seven-way GOP primary.

Both candidates selectively align with President Donald Trump, supporting his proposed border wall with Mexico as well as favoring his efforts to promote U.S. economic growth by loosening federal regulations.

The winner will go up against Democrat Archie Parnell on June 20.

Pope was backed by business groups with mainstream appeal, while Norman gathered support from hard-right groups who reject compromise. Norman had Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas in the district on Monday campaigning for him.

South Carolina’s 5th District spans 11 mostly rural counties, but also includes the growing suburbs south of Charlotte.

Republicans dominate after state GOP leaders changed the district boundaries to draw it more safely under their party’s control, but it had been in Democratic hands for more than 100 years until Mulvaney’s victory in 2010.

Pope, an attorney from York and the No. 2 in South Carolina’s House, had the support of several high-profile state Republicans, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and dozens of law enforcement leaders, including fellow former prosecutor U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Norman, a real estate developer, former state House member and major backer of former Gov. Nikki Haley, counted on support from the party’s right flank, including the Club For Growth’s political arm; Jim DeMint, a former U.S. senator from South Carolina and a former director of the Heritage Foundation; and Cruz.