Update: Paul Thurmond has won the GOP nomination after receiving 71 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results from the South Carolina Election Commission.
Voters in parts of the Charleston area are heading to the polls Tuesday in a runoff for the Republican state Senate nominee. In an unusual twist, the incumbent senator is urging voters to support his opponent. Meanwhile, the election will face yet another legal challenge.
The race is to fill the state Senate District 41 seat that was occupied by Glenn McConnell before McConnell resigned to become Lt. Governor. Sen. Walter Hundley (R-Charleston) has held the seat since winning a special election to replace him in July.
Hundley is listed on the GOP ballot again Tuesday, but said he has suspended his campaign and is urging voters to support his opponent. Former Charleston County councilman Paul Thurmond was the top vote-getter in the GOP primary last month, but failed to win the race outright. Thurmond received 43% of the votes, while Hundley received 37%.
Hundley had originally said he would only fill out the remainder of McConnell’s term this year. However, he filed to run again after the state Supreme Court ordered more than 250 candidates to be removed from ballots statewide due to improperly-filed paperwork, saying he wanted to ensure that a Republican nominee was on the ballot.
A circuit judge ordered the new primary last month and the decision was upheld by the state Supreme Court. However, the results will still face a challenge, as a three-judge panel will soon hear a federal lawsuit disputing the primary and more specifically Thurmond’s candidacy.
The lawsuit filed by a Charleston County Democratic Party official claims the Supreme Court should have gotten federal approval before putting Thurmond back on the ballot, arguing the Voting Rights Act requires the Department of Justice’s permission for any changes to election law. A hearing is set for October 16.
If Thurmond wins Tuesday’s election, he will face Democrat and former Charleston City Councilman Paul Tinkler in November.
Tom Hayes contributed to this report