Ralph Norman led State Rep. Tommy Pope, R-York, by just 203 votes late Tuesday in a tense, down-to-the-wire Republican runoff for South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District seat.
York County Elections officials confirmed that an official recount will take place this week to determine the official winner.
By 9:30 p.m., Norman led Pope by 17,755 votes (50.29 percent) to 17,552 (49.71 percent) with all 12 counties and 100 percent of precincts reporting.
A late endorsement and appearance in Rock Hill by former Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas added a boost, said R.J. May, communications director for the Norman campaign.
“We ran a strong campaign for the last three months,” May said. “One that really resonated with voters across the 5th District. As of tonight, we’ll be looking forward to the next five weeks toward the general election (against Democrat challenger Archie Parnell.)”
South Carolina law says that a recount must happen if the difference is 1 percent or less, according to Beth Covington, with the York County Voter Registration and Elections office.
Officials also will count the provisional ballots at 10 a.m. Thursday in York.
Republican voters in Rock Hill and York County said Tuesday that they were pleased to vote for two good choices — Pope and Norman — in the competitive race.
Pope and Norman were the two top finishers two weeks ago in a crowded GOP primary field.
There was a steady stream of enthusiastic runoff voters at several polling locations, from Rock Hill to York and Lake Wylie.
“I know both of them,” said Gene Phillips, who cast a ballot at the Magnolia Room on Laurel Creek Drive in Rock Hill. “They’re both good men, and servants to the community.”
Several voters said they cast ballots for Pope or Norman because they knew them personally. Pope’s supporters said they were impressed by his down-home appeal, while Norman’s fans touted his business acumen.
We need less politicking and more business. It’s time for a change.
Pope works as a lawyer in private practice after serving the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office a decade ago. Pope currently serves as the speaker pro tempore of the S.C. House of Representatives.
Norman, a developer from Rock Hill, unsuccessfully ran for the 5th District seat a decade ago. He resigned his S.C. General Assembly seat representing York County when he decided to run for Congress.
The seat became available when Republican Mick Mulvaney resigned to become President Donald Trump’s budget director. The 5th District covers 11 counties, including Cherokee, Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lancaster, Lee, Newberry, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York.
Andrew Putnam said he cast his ballot for Norman because the two were close friends. He said he felt Parnell, a senior adviser at Goldman Sachs from Sumter, was an “interesting” challenger.
Donna Farmer said she cast her vote for Pope following an endorsement from Rep. Trey Gowdy of Spartanburg. Farmer said she has voted for Democratic candidates many times in her life. She said she switched to voting for Republicans during November’s presidential election.
They’re both pillars of the community. But somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose.
“We need less politicking and more business,” Farmer said. “It’s time for a change.”
Several of the precincts that saw high turnout during the May 2 primary saw equally high traffic during Tuesday’s runoff. Of the 610 ballots cast at the Northwestern precinct at the Applied Technology Center in Rock Hill, 525 of those were Republican, according to Beth Covington, with the York County Elections and Voter Registration Office.
The trend continued for other Republican strongholds like Laurel Creek (88 percent Republican ballots cast), Allison Creek (83 percent) and Ebinport (81 percent).
Each election commission for the 11 counties will meet Thursday to certify the election results before sending the numbers to Columbia for a finalized vote tally.
Pope and Norman, who are home-grown products, enjoy broad name recognition and support in York County, Covington said. The two finished within three-tenths of a percentage of each other in the primary, with less than 200 votes separating them.
200 Pope and Norman finished within three-tenths of a percentage of each other in the primary, with less than 200 votes separating the candidates.
And in the run-up to Tuesday’s vote, both candidates took part in last-minute efforts to push out the vote. Voter turnout for the primary ranged from 4 to 15 percent in the 11 counties.
Cruz came to Rock Hill Monday in support of Norman, while Gowdy recently touted Pope’s background in law enforcement.
Phillip Piston said he tapped Pope because of his prosecutor credentials. Pope gained national fame when prosecuting convicted child killer Susan Smith two decades ago.
“They’re both pillars of the community,” said Piston of Norman and Pope. “But somebody has to win, and somebody has to lose.”
Dick Jordan said he knew Norman for more than 20 years, and felt his “integrity” would serve him well in office.
Brian Hovis didn’t spoil who he voted for, but said he picked “the right person.”
“I’m glad to have two good choices for us,” Hovis said.