Hometown support lifts Coleman over Moody in state Senate runoff

Creighton Coleman earned a narrow victory over Leah Moody on Tuesday in a Democratic state Senate runoff that showed the power of hometown loyalty.

Moody racked up huge margins around Rock Hill, the place she grew up as the daughter of retiring state Rep. Bessie Moody-Lawrence. But it wasn't enough to offset Fairfield County, where Coleman's father, the late George Coleman Jr., was well known as a judge, prosecutor and legislator.

"I did well for my first run," said Moody, 37, adding that she expects to seek elected office again at some point. "My hometown definitely represented. But the margin in Chester, it wasn't easy. He had to work for it."

Coleman apparently won Chester by 111 votes, though official results weren't posted late Tuesday night. Moody won York County by more than 800 votes. In Fairfield, Coleman won by more than 1,000 votes.

"That was closer than I thought," said Coleman, a Winnsboro attorney. "Fairfield was the big key to me. York was the key for her. If you think about it, that's what it should be. That's our home districts."

Coleman advances to face Republican Mark "The Richburg Rocket" Bennett, a truck driver and part-time racer with ultraconservative views on taxes and immigration. Bennett said at a recent political forum that hospital emergency rooms shouldn't be required to treat illegal immigrants.

The winner will replace retiring state Sen. Linda Short, D-Chester, in the District 17 seat that represents all of Chester and Fairfield counties and parts of York and Union counties.

Family ties run deep

Many of Moody's supporters said they were fond of her mother, Bessie, who cast a ballot at Sunset Park Elementary School on Tuesday afternoon.

"I know her family," said Ricky J. Thompson, a contractor who uses a "J" because there are four Ricky Thompsons in Rock Hill. "I know what kind of values they taught her. I know she's got a good upbringing. I'm not familiar with this Coleman guy. I never heard of him until this election started."

The final week of campaigning saw the momentum swing toward Coleman, who secured endorsements from Short and third-place primary finisher Michael Squirewell.

Short, one of only two women in the Senate, said she liked Moody but prefers a successor familiar with the needs of rural Chester and Fairfield counties rather than someone who lives and works in Rock Hill. On Tuesday, a majority of voters agreed.