JUNE 21, 2012 10:13 a.m. (7)
With none of the five GOP candidates for state Senate District 8 earning a majority of the votes cast in last Tuesday’s primary, Joe Swann and Ross Turner, the top two vote-getters, are now preparing to face each other in a runoff election next Tuesday, June 26.
Meanwhile, the incumbent, David Thomas, is preparing to leave the Senate seat he’s held for 27 years. The bottom two vote-getters, Chad Groover and Jim Lee, have both endorsed Swann in the runoff.
Fewer than 10 percent of Greenville County voters went to the polls last week. Swann earned 2,019 votes, less than 1 percent more than Turner, who earned 1,953. Thomas earned 1,509 votes.
Statewide, six incumbents lost their seats in the primaries, including Thomas, who was the chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee.
“I think there was a lot of anti-incumbency flavor this time,” said David Woodard, a political science professor at Clemson University and Republican political consultant. He attributed much of that to the state Supreme Court ruling in May that tossed more than 200 challengers off the primary ballots.
“A lot of voters felt that one of the essences of democracy is to have accountability from politicians, and they didn’t feel like they can get that when they’re never challenged,” Woodard said. “There’s just a dislike of incumbents.”
Swann agreed that the loss of candidates contributed to the low voter turnout, but offered another explanation: “I think it’s a time of year when a lot of voters go to the beach.”
The loss of Thomas’ seniority may mean a continuation of the Upstate’s diminishing influence in the state Legislature, “but voters don’t take that into consideration when they vote for somebody,” said Woodard. “There might be a practical effect, but I don’t think it’s a dramatic loss.”
Turner was “gratified, but not necessarily surprised” at the results. “Over the last few years, I’ve heard more and more people expressing the need for a local business owner’s perspective in Columbia.”
The other two challengers in the race, Jim Lee and Chad Groover, won 1,261 and 615 votes, respectively. They have both publicly endorsed Swann.
“Both gentlemen (Swann and Turner) are fine citizens,” said Lee, a business consultant and Internet talk-radio host in Mauldin. “However, I believe that Mr. Swann’s life experience, business and leadership skills, determination and vision set him apart and that he is best prepared to represent District 8 in the state Senate.”
If elected, Swann has pledged to use his Senate salary to fund a Greenville Tech scholarship.
Both candidates are now preparing last-minute efforts to get the vote out for the runoff.
“We’re just trying to reach out to as many voters as we can, and ask them to make the effort to go to the polls,” said Swann.
“We’re continuing to meet voters all across the district, making calls, and visiting homes and businesses,” said Turner. “Our ads are on the air, our literature is being distributed, and volunteers are making hundreds of personal calls. As a final push, we are planning a walk from one end of the district to the other this weekend and will be reengaging our get out the vote operation in the final days.”
If the voters choose Swann on Tuesday, “I’ll continue to run my business and raise my family,” Turner said. “I’ll stay actively involved in my church, civic, and charitable activities. And I’ll look for other ways to give back to this community and state that I love so much.”
And if the voters choose Turner, “I’ll still be a daddy and a granddaddy and a member of the Clemson board,” said Swann.
Runoffs on Tuesday will also decide the Republican candidate for the state’s new U.S. House District 7. Legislature seats will be up for grabs in the Sumter area and in Chester and Fairfield counties.
Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday. To find your polling place, visit www.scvotes.org.
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