More than a decade after he came up short in his first bid for Congress, the second time was the charm Tuesday for Ralph Norman.
Norman was elected to fill South Carolina’s vacant 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, almost 11 years after the former GOP state legislator lost to then-U.S. Rep. John Spratt, a Democrat, in 2006.
“The voters of the 5th District sent a message to Washington,” Norman told supporters in Rock Hill Tuesday night. “We’re going to start anew.
“I believe with (Republican President Donald) Trump in the White House, we have a great opportunity as conservatives,” said Norman. “Washington needs leaders to help maintain the God-given right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell of Sumter, along with three minor-party candidates, to win the 5th District seat. The district cover the north central portion of the state — from the Charlotte suburbs to the Midlands, including part or all of Fairfield, Kershaw, Newberry and Sumter counties.
Special elections have been treacherous for Republicans since the GOP won control of the White House and both chambers of Congress last November. Stumbles by Trump and a surge in opposition to the Republican among newly invigorated Democratic voters have made formerly deep-red GOP districts suddenly competitive.
Even in the 5th District Tuesday, results were closer than former U.S. Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s 20-point GOP win last November. Mulvaney later resigned from Congress when he was named Trump’s budget director.
Democrats had hoped to replicate swings in other GOP districts in the 5th District, and they did — but again did not post a win.
Earlier this year, Democratic candidates suffered narrow defeats in otherwise safe Republican districts in Kansas and Montana. Also, on Tuesday, Democrats lost a bid to pull out in a win in a Georgia district represented by a Republican for decades.
The 5th District was redrawn after Republican Mulvaney won the seat from Democrat Spratt in 2010. Since then, the former Democratic stronghold produced double-digit wins for Mulvaney, joining six of South Carolina’s seven congressional districts in becoming more Republican.
“I’m happy we ran such an honorable, straightforward, upstanding race,” Parnell said Tuesday. “I’m very thankful for all the volunteers who worked so hard.”
Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs tax adviser, offered his congratulations to Norman, adding he hoped the millionaire real-estate developer would “listen to the views of all the people of the 5th District.”
Election officials said turnout was light Tuesday. Besides being scheduled in an off-year and during summer vacations, voters also had to contend with rain throughout much of election day.
But the weather didn’t dampen the spirits at Norman’s watch party in Rock Hill, where the candidate had two reasons to be happy. Norman’s victory Tuesday coincided with his birthday. As Norman gave his victory speech Tuesday, supporters serenaded him with “Happy Birthday.”
David Thackham with the Rock Hill Herald contributed.
100 percent of precincts reporting
Ralph Norman (R): 51 percent
Archie Parnell (D): 48 percent
Victor Kocher (Lib): 0 percent
David Kulma (Grn): 0 percent
Josh Thornton (Amer): 0 percent