U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham beat back a scattered Tea Party challenge Tuesday, getting more votes than all six of his GOP challengers combined.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Graham secured 57 percent of the vote. That was well above the 50 percent he needed to avoid a runoff and more than 40 percentage points ahead of closest challenger State Sen. Lee Bright’s 15 percent. None of the other five challengers cracked double digits.
“To the people of South Carolina, thank you,” Graham said as his voice cracked during his acceptance speech, “I will not let you down.”
Powdersville businessman Richard Cash finished third with just 8 percent of the vote and slightly ahead of former Columbia pastor Det Bowers’ 7 percent. Charleston PR specialist Nancy Mace had 6 percent, while Orangeburg attorney Bill Connor had 5 percent and Columbia attorney Benjamin Dunn finished with 1 percent.
In the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s vote, most polls of likely GOP voters showed Graham hovering around the 50 percent mark with roughly a third still undecided.
Graham will face State Sen. Brad Hutto, D-Orangeburg, in November. Hutto easily dispatched Columbia businessman Jay Stamper with 77 percent of the vote to Stamper’s 23 percent. Hutto will likely be a heavy underdog in that race.
“I want a positive agenda laid out by the Republican Party for the American people,” Graham said Tuesday night. “I am tired of complaining about Democrats all the time. I want to say something positive about us.”
Scott and Dickerson roll to nominations, setting up historic Senate race
Meanwhile, GOP voters also decided overwhelmingly to let Sen. Tim Scott finish serving out the unexpired term of former Sen. Jim DeMint. Scott crushed GOP challenger Randall Young 90 percent to 10 percent Tuesday, his first election since his appointment by Gov. Nikki Haley in 2013.
“It’s certainly a good feeling,” Scott told Greenville affiliate WORD News. “We’re excited, but unfortunately it’s just halftime. We have to win the next race for it to all matter. But we a re working diligently to make that happen.”
Scott will face Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson, who took two-thirds of the Democratic vote Tuesday and swept aside Sidney Moore and Harry Pavilack.
The race will have historical significance, as both Scott and Dickerson are black. South Carolina has never elected an African-American senator in its history.