The two losing candidates in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for the vacant Senate District 32 seat intend to throw their support Friday to the second-place winner.
The attempt could stop the lead votegetter, a white Kingstree lawyer, from winning a 67 percent black district, and give the district a black senator for the first time since Reconstruction.
Both losing candidates said their campaigns are not racially focused, however.
Vote certification confirmed Thursday that there will be a runoff primary on Sept. 16, though a recount is expected to be ordered Friday morning to finalize the ballot.
Williamsburg County Councilman Sam L. Floyd of Kingstree was the top votegetter with 4,602, but the second-place finisher had a tight enough lead over the third-place finisher to require a recount.
State law requires that a candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the vote to win a nomination. If that doesn’t happen, the top two votegetters will be in a runoff.
The law also requires an automatic recount when vote totals between candidates are different by less than 1 percent, and that appeared to be the case Thursday after results were in from all five counties involved.
Totals changed by only a few votes in each county, and no protests were filed.
State Rep. Ronnie A. Sabb of Greeleyville garnered 3,485 votes – only 37 more votes than the 3,448 tallied by Kingstree attorney Cezar E. McKnight. One percent would be 142 votes.
A recount is not as involved as it was when many ballots were cast on paper and counted by hand by poll managers. Voting is now statewide on touchscreen machines, and recounts usually involve little more than running the totals from each precinct again. With the machines, they also seldom result in significant changes in the totals.
Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the state Election Commission, said no significant change is expected, but the recount must take place.
Coming in last in Tuesday’s balloting was state Rep. Carl L. Anderson of Georgetown with 2,710. Anderson got 2,183 of those votes in Georgetown County, collecting 51 percent of the vote. But he was badly beaten in Williamsburg County, where he drew only 374 votes.
Georgetown County has the bulk of the voters in the district, but Anderson’s support was not enough to overcome the Williamburg residents’ advantage.
The four were vying for the seat left vacant when Democrat Yancey McGill of Kingstree resigned his Senate seat after 20 years to take the temporary lieutenant governor’s post.
No Republicans or others filed to run, so the winner will most likely take office. The winner will be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
The district includes most of Williamsburg and Georgetown counties, plus small portions of Horry, Florence and Berkeley. It has one of the highest minority ratios among the state’s 46 Senate districts, at 67 percent.
When possible, districts are apportioned to allow for minority representation in order to satisfy federal constitutional guidelines.
But the three black candidates split the vote among supporters, and the lone white candidate came out on top.
Sabb on Thursday credited Floyd, the son of a former state senator, with working hard in a campaign that had ``taken hold with some of his constituents.’’
He said he was not surprised at the results, and would not attribute Floyd’s win to racially-based voting.
“I think race is always a factor in America,’’ Sabb said, “but we will be about the business of one people, one district, and progressive improvement.’’
He said he will try to win over those who voted for Anderson and McKnight and ask those who voted for Floyd to reconsider, saying his qualifications are superior to Floyd’s.
He said he wants to help build a community of caring and sharing, and to help meet people’s cries for better education and jobs.
Floyd said he was “pleasantly surprised and excited’’ at the results, though he expected a runoff from the beginning.
He said he is not concerned about Anderson and McKnight endorsing Sabb, adding that “we feel we’re right on course for victory.’’
Race has not played any part in his campaign and it will not, Floyd also said.
“I can assure you it is not a factor in the Sam Floyd campaign. What does race have to do with right and wrong? I don’t look at things as black and white, I look at things as right and wrong,’’ he said.
“I have and will run a clean, positive campaign with no negativity,’’ Floyd said.
Sabb’s campaign announced a news conference for Friday morning in Kingstree, where Anderson and McKnight were expected to endorse him.
Sabb, also an attorney, was a school board member for two years, an assistant solicitor for 20 years, and has been in the state House for two years.
The heavily-black district has a modern history of electing white senators. McGill served for 20 years. Before him, his father held the office for 18 years. Before that, Floyd’s father was the senator for 10 years.
Any registered voter can vote in the runoff, even those who did not vote on Tuesday, so the candidates will also be trying to stir up some new votes.