Margaret Fisher, a self-described long shot at the start of the campaign, moved into position Tuesday to become the next coroner of Lexington County.
She combined support from top political leaders and church congregations to easily win the Republican runoff ballot Tuesday for the post.
“It just all came together at the right time,” she said.
With no Democrat running, winning the GOP nomination is tantamount to securing election and serving through 2016 in the $86,000-a-year post as the successor to the late Harry Harman.
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Fisher received 5,489 votes to 3,882 for former Harman assistant Brian Setree, according to unofficial results.
“It’s more than I ever imagined,” she said of her victory. “I never dreamed I would make it this far.”
In taking office, the 49-year-old Fisher will become one of a half-dozen women who are coroners in South Carolina.
She has promised to continue Harman’s reputation of compassion for grieving families, saying little about changes in operations and staff.
Fisher campaigned as someone whose experience in law enforcement as a Richland County deputy and training as a nurse – a profession she never practiced – are beneficial.
Such experience is not required to hold the post overseeing the investigation of the cause and manner of violent and unusual deaths. The office handles about 1,900 cases a year.
Fisher was endorsed by Gov. Nikki Haley, state Sen. Katrina Shealy and Harman’s family. But her strength is in connections with churches developed from her family’s role supplying animals for religious celebrations.
Those factors were too much for Setree to overcome despite a network of friendships rooted in his former career as a police officer and deputy.
“I’ll stand behind her,” Setree said. “I put my best self out there.”
Fisher and Setree were the top two finishers in a seven-candidate field that was whittled to the pair at the July 1 primary.
The contest was the most spirited race for the post in two generations, but never turned strident publicly.
Harman faced few challenges after winning the job in 1976 and holding it until his death April 18.
Interest in the match to be his successor belied the traditional political low profile of the post.
Nearly 9,400 – about 6 percent – of the county’s approximately 156,000 voters cast ballots Tuesday. the fourth local ballot in the past six weeks. That’s about 1,000 less than the July 1 primary.