Politics & Government

GOP candidates get second chances in Tuesday's SC Senate runoff

Young George Burgess looks toward the poll manager help table while his father, Darrell Burgess of Anderson, votes in a 2016 election at Central Presbyterian Church in Anderson.
Young George Burgess looks toward the poll manager help table while his father, Darrell Burgess of Anderson, votes in a 2016 election at Central Presbyterian Church in Anderson. Independent Mail

Former Pendleton Mayor Carol Burdette narrowly lost to Kevin Bryant in last year's Republican primary for the S.C. Senate’s District 3 seat.

After Bryant gave up the seat in January to become lieutenant governor, Burdette received the most votes in the April 11 GOP primary. She is hoping to duplicate that outcome in Tuesday's runoff.

"I feel like we have a wonderful opportunity of taking this across the goal line," said Burdette, who captured 31 percent of the vote in the primary.

In 2010, Powdersville businessman Richard Cash was the top vote-getter in the Republican primary for the state's 3rd District congressional seat. But two weeks later, he lost a runoff to Jeff Duncan, now serving his fourth term in the U.S. House.

Cash, who finished second to Burdette in this month's primary for Bryant's former Senate seat, wants to replicate Duncan's formula for victory on Tuesday. He had 26 percent of the votes in the primary.

"We're confident that the race is trending our way," he said.

Cash said several recent endorsements show his campaign has momentum. Bryant, state Rep. Jonathon Hill, state Rep. Joshua Putnam, former Senate District 3 candidates James Galyean, Dean Allen and Corey Bott and the S.C. Club for Growth all are backing him.

Burdette said former state Rep. Don Bowen, who finished fifth among the eight candidates in the April 11 primary, is working on her behalf.

With no Democrats in the race, the winner of Tuesday's runoff is almost certain to win a May 30 special election to serve the rest of Bryant's term, which ends in 2020. District 3 covers the northern half of Anderson County.

Candidates share similarities

Burdette, 57, and Cash, 56, have a number of similarities.

Both candidates say reforms are needed at the S.C. Department of Transportation before lawmakers raise the state's gas tax to pay for road improvements. They also have voiced support for 2nd Amendment rights and opposition to abortion

While neither candidate is a particularly gifted public speaker, they have legions of loyal supporters.

And each has resorted to mudslinging in the final days of the race.

Cash sent a flier to voters last week criticizing Burdette for skipping two forums hosted by the Anderson County Republican Party. "What is she hiding?" the flier asked.

Burdette responded by accusing Cash and county GOP officials of engaging in "insider games and sneaky campaign tricks." She said they had a forum last week on a night when they knew she had a previously scheduled engagement.

Burdette sent out her own flier labeling Cash as a "typical 'truth doesn't matter' politician." The flier said Cash's supporters are distorting her views on the 2nd Amendment and abortion. It also sought to link Cash and his supporters to the destruction and thefts of her campaign signs.

Cash said Burdette failed to offer any proof for her "reckless allegations."

Emphasizing differences

As the runoff approaches, Burdette and Cash are emphasizing their differences.

Burdette, president of the United Way of Anderson County, portrays herself as a community leader with an impressive record of accomplishments on issues such as preventing teen pregnancy.

"I don't just talk about things," she said. "I get things done."

Cash, who unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in 2014, is a longtime small-business owner. He is trying to frame the Senate District 3 race as a contest between a "lifelong conservative and a moderate."

Cash often speaks about his ongoing crusade to win passage of legislation that would grant constitutional rights to unborn children. He sees the measure as a way eventually to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling legalizing abortion. Burdette has not taken a position on the "personhood" bill, instead focusing on her efforts to promote adoptions.

Both candidates say S.C. gun owners should be allowed to carry firearms without obtaining concealed weapon permits. Cash said gun owners ought to able to openly display firearms, which Burdette opposes.

Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for the runoff.

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