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U.S. 7th Disrtict: Runoff, or maybe two, will decide nomination

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

Republicans will head to the polls June 26 for a runoff in the 7th Congressional District primary, but Democratic Party officials and candidates were still debating Wednesday whether they will have a runoff.

Former Lt. Gov. André Bauer and Horry County Council Chairman Tom Rice were the top vote-getters among nine GOP candidates, but neither had the required majority.

Gloria Bromell Tinubu, who teaches at Coastal Carolina University and has a home in Georgetown County, appeared to be the Democratic Party winner on Tuesday night. She had 52 percent of the vote, according to the state Election Commission.

But that didn’t include votes cast for Ted Vick, a state House member who dropped out of the race last month after his arrest in Columbia on a drunken driving charge. His name was still on the ballot Tuesday and he got 8 percent of the total vote.

Those votes were thrown out by the Election Commission, according to the state Democratic Party. If they had been counted, Tinubu wouldn’t have had a majority. Dick Harpootlian, state party chairman, called for Vick’s votes to be counted and a runoff between Tinubu and Preston Brittain, a Myrtle Beach attorney, who got 39 percent of the vote.

“To argue that the South Carolina Election Commission should count the votes of someone who wasn’t a candidate in the race is ridiculous,” Tinubu said in a statement.

Brittain sent out a statement Wednesday claiming there would be a runoff.

Tinubu was the clear favorite in Georgetown County, getting 66 percent of votes to Brittain’s 29 percent.

In the Republican primary, Bauer got 32 percent of the vote, while Rice claimed 27 percent. They were also the favorites in Georgetown County, where Rice got 35 percent of the vote and Bauer had 28 percent.

Voters who cast ballots on Tuesday have to vote with the same party if they vote in the runoff. Those who didn’t vote at all on Tuesday are eligible to vote in either runoff on June 26.

As they prepared for the primary, poll workers were told to be ready for crowds and long lines, but those never materialized. Voter turnout in Georgetown County was just over 16 percent and 10 percent statewide. Turnout was higher in the Republican presidential primary in January.

Turnout for Georgetown County was 24 percent in the June 2010 primary, but the number of registered voters has also increased significantly since then.

It could have been the rain at fault for the low turnout, or a situation that led some candidates to be removed from the ballot, but Ladd Dezendorf, a precinct clerk at Pawleys Island 3, believes it had more to do with where Georgetown County residents get their TV news. The county is placed in the Charleston market, though it’s closer to Myrtle Beach.

“All of these debates and everything, nobody gets to see them,” he said. “That’s what needs to be corrected … especially since the 7th District encompasses Georgetown and Horry counties, and out to Florence. That should be our new metropolitan statistical area so the local TV news comes from the area where we live. People would be more informed and more people would be out voting, because they would know who they’re voting for.”

Of those who did turn out on Tuesday, many listed the 7th District race as the one they were most concerned about.

It was the only race on the ballot for Waccamaw Neck Democrats. Republicans also voted for sheriff, selecting incumbent Lane Cribb over challenger Doug Dishong with 78 percent of the vote.

“I would have thought it would have been a fairly significant turnout based on the fact that we are voting on the congressional election,” said Ralph A. Jackson of Pawleys Plantation. “I always vote, but I think it’s very important to vote for the person in congress. With the mess this country’s in, we need the best people we can get. We don’t need to take it by chance, that’s for sure.”

Walter Bryant, a Republican who voted at Pawleys Island 2, said he thought the 7th District race was the most important one on the ballot, but also “I have a responsibility to vote,” he said. “I take that responsibility very seriously.”

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