Two years ago, John King came within nine votes of winning the state House District 49 seat held by longtime incumbent Bessie Moody-Lawrence.
It wasn't as close this time, at least not in the Democratic primary.
Taking advantage of the name recognition he built during his first campaign, King handily defeated political newcomer Montrio Belton to advance to the November general election against Republican Marvin Rogers.
"The people wanted someone who had experience and who had a proven record of bringing about change," said King, director of King Funeral Home in downtown Rock Hill. "I was nervous, but it was calming to know that people were concerned about our district. They came out and voted in numbers."
In the general election, King hopes to keep the focus on his support for a statewide ban on payday lending. "People see how payday lending is crippling our community," he said. "That's what I campaigned on. I believe my election was a referendum on payday lending."
Moody-Lawrence is retiring this year and did not make an endorsement, leaving the two candidates to wage a door-to-door battle in places such as Ogden Road and Bowser Street, where nearly every home had a candidate's sign posted out front.
"If she had run this time, she'd have gotten my vote," said Butler Gore, a floor worker at Siemens who cast a ballot for King. "I think he's next in line."
Belton placed a phone call to King around 8 p.m. to concede. Asked if he plans to run for office again, Belton said that's like asking a woman in labor if she's going to have another baby.
"Running the last time gave him a lot of immediate name recognition," Belton said of King. "It was a great race. It got spirited there at the end. I've congratulated him, and I wish him well."