The South Carolina legislature changed only marginally on Election Day, as few incumbents actually faced significant challenges.
House Democrats were able to pick up two seats in the North Charleston and Goose Creek region, but the GOP counterbalanced those with two currently-Democratic seat wins in Union and Dorchester counties. The final result in the House remains the same as it began the night: 80 Republicans and 44 Democrats.
State senators are not up for reelection until 2020, but Democrats did pick up a special election race in Columbia. Former Democratic party chairman and attorney Dick Harpootlian won the seat of former State Sen. John Courson, who resigned this summer after pleading guilty to corruption charges.
Harpootlian said he believes legislative races are decided more on relationships with voters than the party line.
“The party label obviously has an impact,” he said. “But personalities and people, I think, trump that in these-sized races. Once you get to a congressional race or statewide race, I do think all that matters.”
South Carolina legislators approve the final district lines and few general election races are considered competitive each year. More incumbents (five) lost in their June party primaries than Tuesday’s general election.
In keeping with national trends, the three Democratic Statehouse pickups were in urban districts while Republicans gained two rural ones.
Democrats continued several years of momentum in the Charleston suburbs, as two young political newcomers knocked off Republican lawmakers in the Goose Creek area. Party leaders had tried for several election cycles to unseat State Rep. Samuel Rivers, the lone black Republican in the state House. They were successful this year after J.A. Moore won by just 207 votes in House District 15.
The bigger surprise came in the neighboring District 117, where political rookie Krystle Simmons was able to upset State Rep. Bill Crosby. Crosby has represented the North Charleston seat since 2010, but became a victim of the area’s shifting demographics.
Republicans were able to return the favor in Dorchester County, where State Rep. Patsy Knight, D-St. George, was voted out by seven percentage points as residents instead chose Summerville attorney Mandy Kimmons. Knight had been in the chamber since 2007. The GOP also picked up the House seat of retiring State Rep. Mike Anthony, D-Union. Retired veteran and JROTC instructor Doug Gilliam won Anthony’s seat after Democrats did not run a candidate in the district President Trump won by 19 percentage points.