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Pope, Norman headed for District 5 GOP runoff

Posted: May 4, 2017 5:36 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2017 1:00 a.m.

The Republican race for the S.C. 5th Congressional District will go to a run-off.

Tommy Pope, the current speaker pro tem of the S.C. House of Representatives and former S.C. Rep. Ralph Norman, both York County Republican candidates, pulled in about 30 percent of the GOP vote, respectively, and will face each other in the GOP run-off May 16.

Democrat Archie Parnell easily won the Democratic Party primary for the seat, pulling in 71 percent of the Democrat vote.

Despite winning three counties -- Kershaw, Lee and Sumter -- and pulling solid numbers elsewhere in the district, it wasn’t quite enough to leverage a win or a run off slot for Camden attorney, businessman and S.C. State Guard Commander Tom Mullikin, who garnered about 20 percent of the vote.

Despite the results, Mullikin remained upbeat and called the overall experience very positive.

“I don’t consider it a loss at all,” Mullikin said.  “Anytime you can stand up and talk about issues that are important to you, your community and your country, it’s a win.  We ran on love of the country rather than hate for anyone else and it was wonderful to see the community come together.

Education activist Sheri Few, a Lugoff resident running on the GOP ticket who finished with about 5 percent of the vote, said she was somewhat surprised by Tuesday’s outcome, noting that it underscores the problems grassroots candidates have with regard to fundraising.

“I was pretty surprised by the outcome because I had dominated in nearly every debate and had a strong conservative platform running against less than conservative opponents – especially because the 5th District is very conservative,” she said. “I raised small donations from all over the country, but I was unable to compete with the hundreds of thousands of dollars my opponents spent in this race.”

Both Mullikin and Few said they had no plans to run for public office again. 

“I never say never, but I have no plans at all to run for office again,” Mullikin said. “There are plenty of ways to serve and plenty of work to be done here in the community and I plan to focus my energies and enthusiasms here.”

“I won’t seek another office,” Few said.  “I have run for school board, S.C. House, State Superintendent of Education and now Congress. I promised my husband this would be my last attempt for elected office. However, I will remain involved with politics in whatever capacity God leads -- and I will work to get good people elected to office.”  

Mullikin said he has not yet decided who he will support in the run-off, but will most likely endorse whoever ultimately becomes the Republican candidate. Few said she plans to support Ralph Norman in the runoff, as she sees him as the more conservative candidate.

In all, seven candidates ran on the GOP ticket: former State Republican Party Chair Chad Connelly, who finished with 14 percent of the GOP vote, Ray Craig (.22 percent), Few (4.91 percent), Mullikin (19.75 percent), Norman (30.09 percent), Pope (30.39 percent) and Kris Wampler (.5 percent).

The 5th Congressional District includes parts or all of 12 counties: Cherokee, Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Newberry, Richland, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York.  Mullikin won decisively in Kershaw, Lee and Sumter counties. Of 492,731 registered voters in the district, 60,522 ballots were cast. In Kershaw County, of 43,264 voters, 5,770 ballots were cast. Of those, 1,605 voted for Democratic Party candidates and 4,135 voted Republican.

While most other counties in the 5th Congressional District had posted their results from Tuesday’s primary to the S.C. Election Commission’s website before 9:30 p.m., Kershaw County’s results did not appear until 11:19 p.m.

“You have to understand, our director has not been here for quite a while,” Kershaw County Assistant Director of Voter Registration James Fitzpatrick said, referring to Director James Caughman. “He’s been seriously ill and it took us a little longer to figure things out.”

Fitzpatrick said there were no problems at the polls.

“Turnout was extremely light. In fact, it was lighter than we expected. It went smoothly,” he said.

However, he said part of the problem was an “intricate” and “old” computer program the voter registration office uses.

“It’s not designed for people that are not experts, but we managed to get it done,” Fitzpatrick said.

(Senior Writer Martin L. Cahn contributed to this story.)

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