The Republican race for state House District 48 remained tight into the night Tuesday, but by Wednesday morning Bruce Bryant emerged the winner.
Bryant never counted his contest against Tom Nichols a win until the final precinct reports came in, allowing him to take deep breath on Wednesday.
"Absolutely,” he said. “I'm glad it's over with and things went so well. I haven't looked at a breakdown of the boxes and all that yet. I'm just happy to win."
The state House District 48 seat came open when former Rep. Ralph Norman of Rock Hill left to run for the 5th Congressional District seat. The District 48 area covers most of Lake Wylie south of S.C. 49 and east of S.C. 274, Tega Cay and parts of the Fort Mill and Rock Hill communities.
Bryant, 65, is the former York County sheriff. He lives in Lake Wylie. Nichols, 62, is a Fort Mill resident and retired mechanical engineering business owner.
Bryant took an early lead with a 135-81 advantage in absentee and failsafe ballots. Once precincts began reporting Tuesday night, the trend continued. He won all but one of the first dozen precincts to report.
Yet Bryant had concerns a big turnout in Tega Cay could tighten or even change the outcome. Regardless, he said Nichols ran a strong and fair race.
“Tom is a great guy,” Bryant said. “He has worked his heart out trying to win this race. I’ve got nothing but wonderful things to say about him.”
Nichols did win four more precincts and five total, but Bryant still took more than 54 percent of the vote. York County, which held elections throughout with the U.S. Dist. 5 primary on the ballot, had about a 14 percent voter turnout. All numbers as of Wednesday morning were unofficial.
Bryant said the deep breath won’t last long as he sets his sights on the special election June 20. Democrat Bebs Barron Chorak will oppose him, the winner taking the District 48 seat in Columbia.
“We plan to step up our campaigning effort,” Chorak said on primary day, noting some voters expressed confusion as to why she as the lone Democrat wouldn’t appear on the primary ballot. “We kind of slowed down, not to confuse voters. Tomorrow, we’ll be stepping up our campaigning.”
Chorak said her campaign wouldn’t have tailored itself to either potential Republican opponent. She wants to focus on water quality, population increase and infrastructure needs in the area.
“Actually, I don’t think it matters,” Chorak said. “We’re approaching the issues we’ve chosen.”
But anticipating it might be Bryant in the final vote, Chorak expected her opponent might run on a law and order platform given his background. With decades teaching others how to teach subjects like civics, Chorak said she would be ready.
“How do we apply the law equally and fairly to everybody?” Chorak said. “That’ll be my way of looking at it.”
Bryant said law enforcement and public safety are big parts of his campaign, as are revamping the highway department and protecting Lake Wylie from pollution and overdevelopment. He wants to see improved engineering and better bases put in with roads. He has concerns on recent legislative talk in North Carolina to eliminate 50-foot buffers along the Catawba River.
"I absolutely detest the thought of doing away with that buffer, because that's the only filter we have for our lake," Bryant said.
His two decades as sheriff mean Bryant knows politicking, which he sees as “how you treat people and how you would want them to treat you if you were in that situation." Politicking that won’t end with a primary win Tuesday.
"Hey, I'll be going at it starting today,” Bryant said Wednesday morning. “There's no break in politics."