Harpootlian wins Dem nomination for SC Senate, but Republicans face runoff

Candidates in SC Senate District 20
Top, from left: Benjamin Dunn, John Holler, Christian Stegmaier, Bill Turbeville
Bottom, from left: Kyle Lacio, Dayna Alane Smith, Dick Harpootlian
Candidates in SC Senate District 20 Top, from left: Benjamin Dunn, John Holler, Christian Stegmaier, Bill Turbeville Bottom, from left: Kyle Lacio, Dayna Alane Smith, Dick Harpootlian bmarchant@thestate.com

Columbia-area Democrats settled on their nominee for a special S.C. Senate election, while Republicans will need another round to settle on their choice.

Both parties held contested primaries for an open seat in Senate District 20 on Tuesday.

Dick Harpootlian held a commanding lead in the vote over Democratic opponents Kyle Lacio and Dayna Alane Smith.

“I’ve run on a platform of cleaning up the culture of corruption,” Harpootlian said. “I have a history of doing that as a prosecutor, and I want to take that to the State House.”

Harpootlian long has been a recognizable name in Columbia. Not only has he been a high-profile attorney for decades, he previously served on Richland County Council and as the county’s top prosecutor.

He was also twice chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, where the political operator known for his sharp tongue became an influential figure in national Democratic politics.

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Harpootlian promises to bring a similarly combative tone to the Legislature.

“The voters don’t want somebody to take the lobbyists’ cocktails and guzzle their liquor,”

The Republican primary was much tighter, but results Tuesday night had Ballentine attorney Benjamin Dunn and United Methodist minister John Holler headed to a runoff for the GOP nomination.

A runoff will take place on Aug. 28.

Dunn previously ran unsuccessfully against U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham in a 2014 GOP primary. Dunn has taken aim at Richland County and the city of Columbia in trying to rally GOP voters in the I-26 corridor of the district.

“In a race like this, until the voting occurred, nobody really knew where we were,” said Dunn, who said he will spend the next two weeks “contacting as many voters as we can and talking about the issues they care about.”

Holler is the president of Epworth Children’s Home who has focused his campaign on family and children’s issues.

He credited the win to “my roots here. I’ve lived in Columbia and the Ballentine area, the work I’ve done and the style of leadership I’ve been able to convey.”

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Chapin attorney Christian Stegmaier and Columbia insurance agent Bill Turbeville trailed close behind.

Turnout on Tuesday was about 10 percent across the district.

The winning candidates will have a wide terrain to cover in the general election. The district stretches from the southern neighborhoods of Columbia to the northwest, along Interstate 26, into portions of Lexington County.

The seat came open when Republican Sen. John Courson, who held the seat for more than 30 years, resigned in June after pleading guilty to misuse of office as part of the probe into corruption at the S.C. State House. Courson had been suspended from the seat for more than a year before he resigned.

John Courson, who resigned as a state senator, pleaded guilty to common law misconduct in office during court proceedings in Richland County. Courson has been battling cancer for more than two years.

Voters will decide which candidate will fill the final two years of Courson’s term in the general election on Nov. 6.



Dick Harpootlian - 81 percent

Dayna Alane Smith - 11 percent

Kyle Lacio - 8 percent


Benjamin Dunn - 32 percent

John Holler - 25 percent

Christian Stegmaier - 22 percent

Bill Turbeville - 21 percent

Source: SC Election Commission

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