State Rep. Kirkman Finlay III, a Richland County restaurant owner and farmer, beat Democratic challenger Joe McCulloch Tuesday in a rematch of their 2012 race for the District 75 seat in the S.C. House.
The race was close but not as close as 2012 when only 308 votes separated Finlay and McCulloch.
Still, it took hours for results to come in, which Finlay, the son of former Columbia mayor Kirkman Finlay Jr., said felt like deja vu as he waited at the Richland County Election Office.
Before midnight, however, Finlay had a roughly 600-vote lead over McCulloch with only absentee, fail-safe, provisional and emergency ballots left to be counted.
Finlay focused on ethics reform during his first term, representing parts of Forest Drive, Fort Jackson Boulevard and the Shandon areas as well as the Kings Grant neighborhood.
But Finlay’s ethics-reform efforts were criticized by some, including McCulloch, as a get-out-of-jail-free card for former House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston.
Harrell, who was seeking re-election, pleaded guilty last month to six counts of public corruption and agreed to resign his House seat and not seek public office for three years.
Democrats picked up Harrell’s seat Tuesday with Mary Tinkler beating Green Party candidate Sue Edward.
Harrell’s name was still on the ballot, but votes for him did not count.
Tinkler, who won the seat formerly held by South Carolina’s most powerful politician, said she hoped to bring honesty and integrity back to the district.
While her victory flipped to Democratic control a traditionally Republican seat, Tinkler said she is willing to work across the aisle.
“Yes, I am a Democrat, but I find that I’m a moderate voice,” she said, adding she is fiscally conservative.
Tinkler’s victory was offset by a loss for Democrats, who lost the seat held by state Rep. Ted Vick of Chesterfield County, who did not seek a sixth term. Vick had faced a pair of driving-under-the-influence charges, but one was dropped last week on a technicality. Republican Richie Yow won Vick’s former seat.
The S.C. House remains firmly in GOP control — with 78 Republicans and 46 Democrats.