RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — A pair of Democratic attorneys held big enough leads in hotly contested House seats held by Republicans in Richland County to be called winners by The Associated Press.
Beth Bernstein held a large lead on four-term GOP incumbent Joan Brady with 87 percent of precincts reporting in District 78. The seat in the suburban Richland County district appears to be trading parties for a third time since 1999.
Joe McCulloch has the advantage over former Columbia City Councilman Kirkman Finlay in the race for District 75. Voting delays left 78 percent of the precincts counted through early Wednesday. They are vying to succeed retiring House Judiciary chairman Jim Harrison, a Republican who held the seat in the affluent district since 1989.
McCulloch and Finlay, a Republican who had sworn off politics after an unsuccessful bid for Columbia mayor in 2010, peppered voters with mailers and phone calls in the final weeks, each claiming to be the better candidate to build consensus in the Legislature and pass ethics reforms.
In District 78, Bernstein argued Brady did little to help ethics reform in the state by voting to clear Republican Gov. Nikki Haley of ethics charges in a hearing this spring. Bernstein also attempted to tie Brady to Haleys efforts to cut education funding.
Brady tried to paint Bernstein, a political newcomer, as a trial lawyer who profits from suing doctors. Brady was aided by ad buys from a political-action committee affiliated with House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.
In other Midlands state House races, three incumbents two Democrats and a Republican held their seats.
• Republican Rick Quinn won his second term in his second stint in the House over Democrat Robert Vanlue in District 69 in Lexington County.
• Democrat Leon Howard earned his ninth term with a commanding versus Republican Chuck Hill in District 76 in Richland County with all but one of 15 precints reporting.
• Democrat Laurie Slade Funderburk handily nabbed her fourth full term against Republican David Herndon in District 52 in Kershaw County.
• Republican Ralph Shealy Kennedy narrowly defeated petition candidate Phil Perry in District 39 in Lexington and Saluda counties for the seat held by retiring Republican Marion Frye.
Republicans held a 76-48 advantage in the S.C. House heading into election night.