While only a handful of the 124 South Carolina House of Representatives members faced a serious primary challenge Tuesday, at least two will not be returning to the House next year.
Challengers on Tuesday defeated a pair of incumbents in Tuesday’s GOP primary that had 26 combined years of legislative experience between them. Another longtime member narrowly avoided a bigger upset.
Anderson Tea Party founder Jonathon Hill defeated four-term State Rep. Don Bowen, R-Anderson, with 57 percent of the vote to the incumbent’s 43 percent. Bowen, a more moderate Republican, had survived two previous challenges from the right since 2010. The defeat came just a day after Gov. Nikki Haley signed a texting-while-driving ban he had spent five years pushing. Hill said he entered the race because he thought Bowen was ineffective at representing his constituents’ interests.
No Democrat has filed to run.
But the biggest surprise may have been in Horry County, where 18-year SC House veteran Tracy Edge lost to former North Myrtle Beach City Councilmember Greg Duckworth by 20 percentage points.
Edge, a resort manager who serves on the powerful House Ways & Means Committee, frequently clashed with other members of the Horry County legislative delegation, especially on “flow control” legislation. Many of them supported his opponent Duckworth and helped garner his final 60 percent to 40 percent margin.
No Democrat is running in the general election, effectively guaranteeing Duckworth will win in November.
But powerful 20-year State Rep. Chip Limehouse, R-Charleston, narrowly avoided becoming an even bigger upset — by just 39 votes. Limehouse squeaked past GOP challenger Russell Guerard with 50.53 percent of the vote to the challenger’s 49.47 percent.
That slim margin left Guerard just 2 votes off the 1 percent difference needed for an automatic recount. But the difference could narrow should either candidate challenge any ballots before the State Election Commission certifies the result.
Both candidates have accused the other of sending out negative mailers, with Guerard even suing Limehouse for slander.
No serious Democratic opposition is expected in this race, either.