Scott, Thurmond in Republican runoff for SC's 1st District

By Hatzel Vela  bio | email | Twitter

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC/AP) - South Carolina's lone black Republican state representative is heading to a GOP runoff to fill an open coastal Congressional seat.

Charleston state Rep. Tim Scott earned the most votes Tuesday to advance to the June 22 runoff. But both Paul Thurmond and his opponent, state Rep. Tim Scott, say history and race have little to do with the contest in the coastal 1st District that took shape Tuesday night.

"Both of us bring something to the table. It's not about the color of our skin — it's about our background and our message," said Thurmond, who earned a little more than half the 31 percent garnered by Scott. "Tim has not run on the color of his skin and I have not run on my father's name."

He will face Paul Thurmond, current Charleston County Councilman. Scott was also on Charleston County Council, prior to being elected to the state legislature.

Scott was ahead of Thurmond by 15 percentage points. Thurmond doesn't think catching up to Scott will be a problem.

"You work hard and you get out and you talk about the issues. You talk about your record. You talk about your leadership and what you've accomplished," Thurmond said at his James Island campaign party Tuesday night.

"It's about being a conservative problem solver and I'm anxious to get out there and talk to people about it," he added.

Thurmond knows he may be attacked and labeled a legacy candidate because of his last name. He is the son of the late Senator Strom Thurmond.

"It's a great legacy, but I'll tell you: 'I am the person, I am the man, I've been out there working hard. I've been the one that has created this record,'" Thurmond said.

The winner will face perennial candidate Ben Fraiser, who won the Democratic primary in the strongly Republican district reaching along most of the South Carolina coast.

Scott has spent one term in the South Carolina House, where the 44-year-old businessman became the first black GOP representative in more than 100 years.

On the other side of the state, incumbent GOP U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis found himself forced into a runoff to keep his seat in the state's 4th District, continuing what has become a treacherous year for incumbents.

Inglis, seeking a fourth term, picked up nearly 28 percent vote, trailing Spartanburg prosecutor Trey Gowdy who had 39 percent in the district in the Greenville area. A majority of the vote was needed for a candidate to avoid the June 22 runoff.

Gowdy and three other challengers contended Inglis was not conservative enough for the district in the state's northwest corner. Inglis accused Gowdy of offering to support him, then deciding to run against him.

"We'll find out who's the real conservative here — the one who wants to act like Ronald Reagan, rather than the one who wants to divide America," Inglis said after the votes were counted.

The crowded field developed when incumbent Rep. Henry Brown announced his retirement earlier this year.

In the congressional race, Carroll Campbell III, the son of the late Gov. Carroll Campbell, finished third with just over 14 percent.

The runoff pits two candidates who once served together on the Charleston County Council.

Penny Patton, a 72-year-old Charleston housewife, said her vote for Thurmond had nothing to do with his name.

"He had an empathy for the people," she said. "I think he would rein in spending and that had a lot to do with it." As for his famous father, "I didn't take that into consideration," she said.

The runoff winner faces perennial candidate Ben Frasier, who won the Democratic nomination. He has run for Congress in every election but two since 1972.

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