Librarian Arik Bjorn on Saturday officially clinched the right to face veteran U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, a Lexington County Republican, in the Nov. 8 general election.
Bjorn edged past semi-retired hardware store owner Phil Black by 45 votes of 19,317 cast in Tuesday’s 2nd District Democratic primary, a recount showed.
Technical glitches and missing data from polling machines in Richland County delayed a recount of votes from the 2nd District Democratic primary on Friday.
The S.C. Election Commission certified the final results of the multi-county recount on Saturday because of a glitch in Richland County on Friday. Richland County Elections Commission Director Sam Selph on Friday said absentee votes from 21 voting machines were not retrievable immediately because the machines’ batteries died during the mandatory recount required by the close vote.
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The race was closer than expected, considering that Bjorn and the S.C. Democratic Party united against Black, a former Republican who admits to leaning right on a number of key issues.
Bjorn routinely labeled Black a “fake Democrat” on the campaign trail. In 2014, Black won the Democratic nomination for the 2nd District before losing in a landslide to Wilson.
“We’re really excited that for the first time in a long time, the nominee for the 2nd Congressional District is going to be a real Democrat,” S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jaime Harrison said.
Bjorn blamed the tightness of the race on voters’ lack of education on the candidates and Republicans who crossed over to vote in the Democratic primary.
Republican crossover voters were especially common in Richland County, where GOP voters had few options on the primary ballot, Harrison said. Black won in Richland, Orangeburg and Barnwell counties.
“These are Republican tricks at play, we know that,” Bjorn said.
Black said his near victory was a “miracle,” given he spent less than $5,000 on his campaign and faced strong opposition from the Democratic Party.
After four losses to Wilson – three in the Republican primary and another as a Democrat in the 2014 general election – and this week’s defeat to Bjorn, Black said he won’t run again.
“I’ve realized that the Democratic Party does not accept me as a Democrat,” he said.