Republican Ralph Norman won the 5th District Congressional election late Tuesday in a close race with Democrat Archie Parnell, unofficial results showed.
Norman captured 44,889 votes, or just over 51 percent, to 42,053 for Parnell, or about 48 percent, according to unofficial results on SCvotes.org, with all 11 counties reporting.
In York County, Norman had a strong lead among voters, which helped seal his victory. Norman had 20,431 votes to 16,639 for Parnell in York County, with all 95 precincts reporting.
Voter turnout was about 18 percent across the sprawling 11-county district, with more than 89,800 ballots cast and 492,731 registered voters, according to SCvotes.org.
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After the victory, Norman strode to the front of the Magnolia Room in Rock Hill Tuesday, seemingly bouncing along to the tunes of the Pharrell song “Happy,” as he celebrated.
The victory was rarely in doubt, but the margin was closer than some Republican supporters wanted, with Norman edging out Parnell by a margin of less than 4 percent.
“The voters of the 5th District sent a message to Washington,” said Norman, in front of a relieved, but enthusiastic crowd. “We’re going to start anew.”
Norman congratulated Parnell on “a great campaign,” and said he appreciated anyone who came forward for public service.
He said he heard several questions in the run-up to Tuesday’s election about Trump, asking whether the races were a referendum on the peoples’ opinion on the president.
He said he would have disagreements with the president from time to time, but wanted to thank Trump for nominating conservative justice Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, as well as working to eliminate regulations on businesses.
“I believe with Trump in the White House, we have a great opportunity as conservatives,” said Norman. “Washington needs leaders to help maintain the God-given right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Norman promised to bring faith “back in the political arena,” and said he was looking forward to working with Trump and fellow House Republicans on pushing forward a conservative vision of America.
Parnell offered his congratulations to Norman and said he hoped Norman would “listen to the views of all the people of the 5th District.”
“I’m happy we ran such an honorable, straightforward, upstanding race. I’m very thankful for all the volunteers who worked so hard,” said Parnell.
Norman survived a bruising GOP primary race against a dozen candidates, followed by a close victory in a runoff against fellow York County state legislator Tommy Pope, before he moved on to face Parnell in Tuesday's special election.
Norman will fill the spot vacated by Mick Mulvaney, a Republican from Indian Land, who left Congress to become Trump’s budget director.
Norman is a real estate developer from Rock Hill who served in the S.C. House of Representatives for a decade before resigning to run for Congress. He has tied himself to promoting Trump’s agenda.
Parnell, the Democratic candidate from Sumter, is a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs.
Special elections are notorious for low turnout, according to Winthrop University political science professor Scott Huffmon. And Tuesday was no different.
A prominent Republican activist attending the Norman event said he was feeling confident with the numbers coming in early.
“It’s very tight right now, but I fully expect Ralph to win by 8 to 12 points,” said Drew Johnson, former head of the Chester County Republican Party.
The Norman and Parnell race, a special election, was much closer than the general election for the same seat last year.
Mulvaney (R-Indian Land), first elected in 2010, defeated his most recent challenger, Democrat Fran Person, by 20 points last November.
Other complete county results, on SCvotes.org:
▪ All Chester County precincts reported, with Parnell at 2,301 and Norman at 1,940.
▪ All 23 Union County precincts have reported, with Norman taking 1,436 votes, compared to Parnell’s 1,397 votes.
▪ All Spartanburg County precincts have reported, with Norman taking 762 votes (70.95 percent) and Parnell with 302 votes (28 percent).
▪ All Lancaster County precincts reported, with Parnell taking 4,978 votes and Norman with 6,231.
▪ All Sumter County precincts reported, with Parnell taking 5,547 and Norman with 3,660.
▪ All Newberry County precints reported, with Parnell at 1,519 votes and Norman with 1,627.
▪ All Fairfield County precinct reported, with Parnell taking 2,131 and Norman taking 1,021.
▪ All Lee County precincts reported, with Parnell at 1,820 and Norman at 631.
▪ All Kershaw County precincts reported, with Parnell at 3,288 and Norman at 3,706.
▪ All Cherokee County precincts reported, with Parnell at 2,031 and Norman at 3,367.
The Herald spoke with several voters in York County earlier today. Here are a few of their reactions.
There are seven congressional districts in South Carolina — Republicans controlled six before Mulvaney’s election in 2010. The 5th District was solidly Democratic for 28 years under former U.S. Rep. John Spratt, whose string of election victories was broken by Mulvaney in 2010.
Third party candidates were Green Party’s David Kulma, American Party candidate Josh Thornton and the Libertarian Party’s Victor Kocher.