A GOP candidate who has called transgender people mentally ill finished first in Tuesday's race for the 4th District's congressional nomination.
Former state Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, won 25 percent of the vote in the crowded 4th District GOP primary race to succeed U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg.
Bright will face a runoff in two weeks against the second-place candidate. Unofficial results show that will be state Sen. William Timmons of Greenville.
Timmons won 19 percent of the GOP primary vote Tuesday, finishing less than 400 votes ahead of state Rep. Dan Hamilton, according to the S.C. Election Commission. There were 13 Republican candidates seeking the seat currently held by Gowdy, who didn't seek re-election.
The tightness of the result might lead to a recount to decide whether Timmons or Hamilton makes the runoff. But Timmons declared victory Tuesday, and Hamilton told supporters it seemed unlikely he would be able to make up the vote deficit, according to the Greenville News.
Bright is best known as the sponsor of a "bathroom bill" in the S.C. Legislature in 2015. Modeled on a controversial North Carolina law, HB2, the bill would have limited access to public bathrooms to people based on the gender on their birth certificates. Critics said that would create hardship for the state's transgender residents.
Last month, Bright reiterated his support of the bathroom bill at a GOP forum in Greenville, telling the crowd, "You're either a man or a woman — and if you’re confused, you’ve got an issue with mental illness."
The 4th District runoff will be held June 26.
The winner of the GOP contest will face either Brandon Brown or Doris Lee Turner, the top two finishers in Tuesday's 4th District Democratic primary. Brown and Turner also will face off in a June 26 runoff.