After serving 23 years in the state House of Representatives, Republican Dwight Loftis is moving to the South Carolina Senate.
Loftis won Tuesday’s state Senate District 6 election. He received 56 percent of the votes while Democrat Tina Belge received 44 percent in her first run for elected office.
“I am extremely pleased,” said Loftis, who joined his supporters at Mac’s Speed Shop in downtown Greenville. “It is a solid win.”
Belge said she was “extremely proud of the race that we’ve run.”
“We’re going to continue to fight in South Carolina,” she said.
Loftis, 76, will replace William Timmons, who gave up the seat after being elected to Congress last year.
Another special election will be held this summer to fill the state House District 19 seat that Loftis held.
Belge raised more campaign money than Loftis and received support from five Democratic presidential candidates: U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But it wasn’t enough to win a Senate seat that Republicans have held for more than two decades.
Loftis defeated two challengers — Greenville City Councilwoman Amy Ryberg Doyle and Greer businessman Jeffrey Stringer — in the Republican primary in January. Belge was the only Democrat who filed to run for the seat.
Loftis campaigned on a platform stressing his “proven conservative leadership.” He also warned that Belge would pursue a national socialist agenda of the Democratic Party.
Loftis was endorsed by Timmons and a number of conservative groups. South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette attended a fundraiser for him last week in Greenville.
Belge, 28, who works as a long-range planner for Greenville County, focused during her campaign on education, Medicaid expansion, legalizing medical marijuana, promoting affordable housing and taking steps to curb domestic violence in South Carolina.
About 12 percent of the district’s 64,725 voters cast ballots Tuesday. One of those voters was 98-year-old Greenville resident Greenville resident Stan Sedran.
“It’s important that we vote no matter what,” said Sedran, who owned Sedran’s Furs in downtown Greenville for more than 60 years. He voted in his first election in 1954.
Not surprisingly, South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson and Greenville County Repubican Party Chairman Nate Leupp offered contrasting assessments on the outcome of Tuesday’s election.
“This was an exciting race,” said Robertson, who watched results being posted at the Greenville County elections office. “And I think that it shows that this district is changing.”
Robertson also said the closeness of the race illustrated McMaster’s “lack of strength.”
Leupp drew a different conclusion, insisting that Democrats “have nothing to brag about.”
Citing the support that Belge received from Democratic presidential candidates and donors living outside the district, Leupp said “they gave it everything they’ve got” and still lost by double digits.