Politics & Government

Norman defeats Parnell to win reelection in SC’s 5th District Congress race

‘Tomorrow is a new day’: re-elected 5th District Congressman talks about plans in Washington after win

5th District Congressman Ralph Norman of Rock Hill addressed a crowd of hundreds of constituents Tuesday after poll results showed a wide lead over democratic opponent Archie Parnell. Norman told the crowd "tomorrow is a new day."
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5th District Congressman Ralph Norman of Rock Hill addressed a crowd of hundreds of constituents Tuesday after poll results showed a wide lead over democratic opponent Archie Parnell. Norman told the crowd "tomorrow is a new day."

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-Rock Hill) has won his re-election campaign over opponent Archie Parnell, the second time the two have campaigned against each other.

As of 10:33 p.m. Tuesday, Norman was leading Parnell and third-party candidate Michael Chandler with 56.32 percent of the vote with seven of 11 counties reporting, according to the unofficial S.C. Election Commission results.

Parnell called Norman just before 10 p.m., as Norman was making a victory speech, to concede the race.

“Not only was it a red wave, it was a red, white and blue wall,” Norman said during his speech, surrounded by his family on stage.

More than 200 Norman supporters waited for election results under the ornate chandeliers of The Magnolia Room in Rock Hill.

The biggest cheer of the night came when Parnell called Norman mid-speech. The second came when Norman said he would not support Rep. Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House.

“Here in South Carolina, as I think it was the former president said: we cling to our Bible, we cling to our pick-up trucks, and we cling to our guns,” Norman said. “So folks, I will gladly join the deplorables.”

Chuck Howell said he was at The Magnolia Room Tuesday to support Norman.

“Ralph always had an edge,” he said. “I think this is pretty much a red district. And Ralph’s a straight shooter.”

At 7:30 p.m., about 50 Parnell supporters were still “cautiously optimistic” at McHale’s Irish Pub in downtown Rock Hill.

York residents John and Sally Schimelphfenig were at McHale’s Tuesday night. They canvassed for Parnell in Rock Hill and York.

The last time John canvassed for any candidate was for George McGovern in 1972.

“I’m an Independent,” John said. “I just thought Archie’s a good guy, and we need more good guys in Congress.”

With still only seven of 11 counties reporting, or 64 percent, 191,448 people had cast a ballot in the 5th District race.

In the last midterm election in 2014, 175,145 people voted. And in the 2017 special election, just 88,316 people cast a ballot.

Norman said the increase in voter turnout is due to “pent-up patriotism” and that voters like his message, and President Donald Trump’s message.

Norman put on a “Make America Great Again” hat after his victory speech.

Voters “braved the rain, they braved the weather,” Norman said. “People are wanting to exercise their freedom. They’re patriotic. They want to do what’s best for the country.”

Parnell and Norman previously faced off in the June 2017 special election to replace Mick Mulvaney in the 5th District seat. Mulvaney left to become Trump’s budget director.

The special election, in which Norman won the seat over Parnell, was one of the closest congressional races in South Carolina in the last 20 years.

Parnell announced his decision to run again less than four months later.

Norman beat Parnell by only 3 percentage points in 2017. As of 10:33 p.m. Norman led Parnell by 14 percentage points in the 2018 race.

Parnell, a Sumter Democrat and former senior financial advisor at Goldman Sachs, challenged Norman to a series of debates, one in each of the 11 counties represented by the 5th district ahead of the election.

Norman, a Rock Hill real estate developer, debated Parnell only once, drawing criticism at that debate after joking about sexual harassment.

Both Norman’s and Parnell’s campaigns faced controversy this year.

Parnell was asked to step down by top South Carolina Democrats before the June primary, after it was revealed he had beat his then-wife in 1973 before their divorce.

Parnell stayed in the race, winning the Democratic primary. He later talked about the 1973 attack at a campaign stop in Rock Hill, saying it was one of his “worst moments” and that he had gone to counseling after.

Norman faced controversy after he took out his loaded gun during an April campaign stop in Rock Hill, drawing criticism from Democrats and some Republicans. Norman said he put the gun on the table to prove a point — that a gun by itself can’t shoot someone.

U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham campaigned with Norman in Fort Mill Oct. 25, drawing a large crowd and criticizing Democrats for the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

In 2017, Norman won 51 percent of the votes in the 11 South Carolina counties represented by the District 5 seat.

Norman won the 2017 race by a wider margin in York County, with 54.4 percent of the vote. Parnell won the majority of the votes in Chester County, with 53.61 percent of the vote. Norman won with 55.07 percent of the vote in Lancaster County.

Hannah Smoot: 803-329-4068, @hgsmoot
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