Five incumbent legislators are hoping their political careers can survive past Tuesday as voters head back to the polls for runoff elections.
About a dozen seats will likely be decided in runoff primaries Tuesday. While the candidates still face a general election in November, most enjoy districts drawn partisan enough that they are expected to win in the fall.
Three Upstate Republican senators are fending off challengers Tuesday — two whose opponents say they are not conservative enough and a third whose opponent argues is too extreme:
In Senate District 2, State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, hopes to continue his 38 years of Statehouse experience against former State Rep. Rex Rice, who lost his seat when he unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2010. Martin received 45 percent of the vote during the June 14 primary to Rice’s 33 percent.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, ended up with fewer votes than his challenger Greenville attorney William Timmons in Senate District 6 two weeks ago. However, Timmons missed out on winning the required majority of the vote by just 0.5 percentage points. He will try to get more than his previous 49.5 percent of the vote Tuesday. Fair, a former University of South Carolina quarterback who has served in the Statehouse since 1985, ended up with 36.3 percent.
State Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, is also facing strong opposition as one of the Senate’s most socially conservative members tries to fend off a well-organized challenge from former State Rep. Scott Talley. Talley has the open support of Gov. Nikki Haley (and the quiet support of many Senate GOP leaders), while Bright is backed by other Upstate conservative lawmakers.
In the Midlands, longtime backbencher State Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Fairfield, will try to protect his District 17 seat from education nonprofit director Mike Fanning. Coleman, who has been at the Capitol since 2001, fell just short of the required 50 percent. The winner faces Republican candidate Mark Palmer in the fall.
While State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, is not technically an incumbent in the Senate District 34 race, he is seeking effective promotion from the state House. Goldfinch received 44 percent of the vote against Myrtle Beach attorney Reese Boyd. Both are running to replace the Georgetown County seat State Sen. Ray Cleary, who did not run for reelection this year.
And the only incumbent House member headed for a runoff election is State Rep. Bill Bowers, D-Hampton, in House District 122. Former State Rep. Curtis Brantley finished second, narrowing out third-place finisher Hampton County Council Chairman Shedron Williams by just 13 votes. However, Brantley decided to end his campaign and instead threw his support behind Willams instead. Bowers received 42 percent of the vote on June 14, compared to 26 percent for Williams.