Tuesday was not a good night for incumbents in the state Senate. as four senators lost their reelection bids to opponents from their own party.
The four had little in common between them beyond being sitting senators who had failed to get 50 percent of the vote in the June 14 primary. State law requires a candidate receive a majority of the vote to win their party’s nomination. The four losing senators had 94 total years experience in Columbia between them.
— Perhaps the biggest upset was State Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman who has represented the county in the Senate or House since 1979. Martin received less than 46 percent of the vote to former State Rep. Rex Rice’s 54 percent on Tuesday. Rice won Senate District 2 by portraying the longtime senator as a “good old boy” and attacking his votes on gun legislation.
— Meanwhile, State Sen. Mike Fair, R-Greenville, had his 32-year Statehouse political career end with a large defeat to Greenville attorney William Timmons. Timmons earned 65 percent of the vote Tuesday to Fair’s 35 percent, only strengthening his totals after falling a half-percentage point short of winning the GOP nomination for Senate District 4 outright two weeks ago. Fair chaired the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee.
— While Republican voters appeared to seek change from two longtime Senate leaders in Martin and Fair, even firebrand backbenchers were not immune from their frustration. State Sen. Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, also lost his District 12 seat Tuesday, with opponents of his transgender bill and support of the Confederate flag organizing a strong campaign that eventually led former State Rep. Scott Talley to victory on Tuesday. Talley edged out the three-term senator by nearly 300 votes to take 51.5 percent of the total.
— It was not just Republicans ousting their own. Democratic voters in Senate District 17 ended the 16-year legislative career of State Sen. Creighton Coleman, D-Fairfield, on Tuesday. In his place, they chose education nonprofit director Mike Fanning. Fanning received 56 percent of the vote to Coleman’s 44 percent. He will face Republican candidate Mark Palmer in November’s general election.
— State Rep. Stephen Goldfinch, R-Murrells Inlet, won an effective promotion to the Statehouse’s upper chamber on Tuesday when voters chose him to fill an open Senate District 34 seat. The two-term House member edged out Myrtle Beach attorney Reese Boyd with 51.5 percent of the vote. He will replace retiring State Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown, who decided not to seek another term this year.
— In a nomination race between two Charleston attorneys, it was Sandy Senn who came out victorious for Senate District 41. Senn defeated Roy Maybank with 58 percent of the vote to Maybank’s 42 percent. With no Democratic opposition, Senn will almost certainly become just the third current female state senator in South Carolina (and the second Republican woman in the chamber).
House primary runoffs:
— State Rep. Bill Bowers, D-Hampton was able to buck the anti-incumbent trend, squeaking past Hampton County Council Chairman Shedron Williams 51 percent to 49 percent.
— Belton City Councilman Jay West won the GOP runoff Tuesday for an open seat in the House. He replaces Mike Gambrell, who resigned after a special Senate election this spring.
— Baptist pastor Ivory Thigpen won the Democratic primary for a northeast Richland County House seat, pulling ahead of local school board member Monica Elkins. He faces Republican candidate Donald Miles in November to replace Mia McLeod, who left the seat to run for state Senate this fall.
— Machine tool shop owner Bart Blackwell appears to have narrowly won an open House seat in Aiken. Unofficial State Election Commission results show Blackwell slipping past Aiken GOP Chairman K.T. Ruthven by just 33 votes.
— Local prosecutor Micah Caskey was able to easily defeat West Columbia Councilman Tem Miles for an open House seat in Lexington County, taking two-thirds of the runoff vote. Caskey replaces retiring State Rep. Kenny Bingham, R-Cayce.
— William Cogswell, Jr., was able to win a race between two real estate businessmen in the House District 110 race, which represents downtown Charleston and Mount Pleasant. Cogswell defeated Russell Guerard 53 percent to 47 percent in the GOP primary to succeed outgoing State Rep. Chip Limehouse. Democratic candidate Alice Wakefield awaits in November.