FORT MILL -- Carl Gullick's tempestuous relationship with the South Carolina Republican Party almost cost him his state House seat on Tuesday.
But Gullick eked out a narrow victory in District 48, relying on strong backing from River Hills and Laurel Creek to overcome political newcomer Kyle Boyd.
A Christian school principal and resident of Regent Park, Boyd ran as a "true conservative light" for northern York County. He was heavily supported by a Columbia-based school choice group, South Carolinians for Responsible Government.
"They spent some money," Gullick said Tuesday night. "Kyle Boyd seems to be a nice guy. That wasn't the issue. The issue was SCRG. They attempted to buy a seat, and they almost got it."
Boyd could not be reached for comment Tuesday night.
A typical argument for Gullick's re-election came from retiree Larry Parsons of Fort Mill.
"I don't like everything he does," Parsons said. "But I don't like everything that any politician does. If he says something, he'll tell you why, and he doesn't back up just because I don't agree with him. He sticks to his guns."
During his 20 years in politics, Gullick never has inspired much loyalty within the Republican base. Gullick should have an easier time in the general election, where his moderate views are more palatable. The primary is winner-take-all because no Democrat declared.
This year, Gullick irked some in the local GOP leadership by not showing up at party functions to debate Boyd. But the real venom came from the operatives at SCRG.
The organization put out more than a dozen varieties of pro-Boyd fliers, including one sent this week that claimed legislators voted against hunting and fishing rights.
The ploy worked on some voters and showed the impact direct-mail pieces can have on a race.
"He came out against the gun law and the hunting law," said 83-year-old Louise Brown, a retired cashier who voted for Boyd. "And I like to fish and hunt. I used to hunt when my husband was alive."
Ultimately, Boyd and his allies couldn't produce quite enough fliers to offset the support base Gullick has cultivated over two decades, first as County Council chairman and now as a state legislator.