Politics & Government

McLeod leading in highly contested Richland Senate race; absentee ballots in question

Mia McLeod on Tuesday appeared to win a Midlands state Senate seat that had been held by the Lourie family for nearly half a century.

Preliminary results, in one of the most closely watched State House contests, show that McLeod, a Democrat, held a nearly 1,800-vote lead with two precincts uncounted in the race against Republican Susan Brill in District 22.

“We are cautiously optimistic,” McLeod said, referring to some 11,600 unreported absentee ballots in her race alone. “I feel comfortable that those ballots will be counted before tomorrow (Wednesday),” she said.

But Brill said GOP party officials told her there were 20,000 uncounted absentee ballots in Richland County races.

McLeod, one of the most outspoken critics of the county’s election office during the 2012 general election fiasco, called 11,600 unreported absentees “an amazing number.”

“But I have to believe that we’re going to get it right this time.”

Whichever candidate wins, she would become the fourth woman in the S.C. Senate.

Click here to see vote totals for regional state Senate races

The winner will succeed retiring Democrat Joel Lourie as the senator for northern Richland and Kershaw counties. Lourie held the seat for 18 years, and his father, Democrat Isadore Lourie, held it 28 years. Between them, the Louries represented the district for 46 of the past 52 years. Joel Lourie endorsed neither candidate, and his brother, Neal, is co-chairman of Brill’s campaign.

During their heated campaign, McLeod and Brill accused each other of going negative.

In Lexington County, 39-year Senate veteran, Nikki Setzler, was re-elected easily. Setzler, a Democrat in heavily Republican Lexington County, had a 6,100-vote lead with all precincts counted. He is known as a pragmatist able to work across party lines.

Setzler is the Senate’s longest-serving current member. He could not be reached by The State newspaper on Tuesday night.

In other contested legislative races in the two-county area:

Click here to see vote totals in regional state House races

▪  Republican Kirkman Finlay held a 1,600-vote lead with one precinct uncounted in his re-election bid in Richland County’s District 75. He first won the seat in 2012.

▪  Democrat Ivory Thigpen had more than a 2-to-1 lead in Richland’s District 79 seat formerly held by McLeod, who opted to seek a S.C. Senate seat. There were two precincts uncounted.

▪  Ten-year House veteran Kit Spires, a Republican, swept to re-election by more than 7,500 votes in Lexington County’s District 96.

▪  Lexington County’s House District 89 has a new representative in Republican Micah Caskey, an assistant prosecutor in the 11th Circuit solicitor’s office. The seat is held by retiring Kenny Bingham.

▪  The county’s House District 39 also has a new face in Republican Calley Forrest, who, in the June GOP primary, defeated an incumbent.

Preliminary results

S.C. Senate

District 22

36 of 38 precincts

Mia McLeod, D, 15,571

Susan Brill, R, 13,778

District 26

47 of 47 precincts

Nikki Setzler, D (i), 20,874

Brad Lindsey, R, 14,717

S.C. House

District 39

26 of 26 precincts

Cal Forrest, R, 10,540

Tillman Gives, D, 3,593

District 75

18 of 19 precincts

Kirkman Finlay III, R (i), 5,654

Tyler Gregg, D, 4,044

District 79

13 of 15 precincts

Donald Miles, R, 2,485

Ivory Thigpen, D, 6,715

District 89

19 of 19 precincts

Micah Caskey, R, 8,163

Rosemounda “Peggy” Butler, D, 4,542

District 96

18 of 18 precincts

Kit Spires, R (i), 8,127

Robert Vanlue, D, 2,507