- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 14, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - So far, Gov. Nikki Haley is one for four. Two of the Senate leaders she tried to unseat defeated their challengers Tuesday, but a third will leave the Legislature after 32 years.

A fourth Senate candidate backed by Haley advances to a runoff, but the only House candidate she endorsed lost.

The elections represented the last chance for Haley, who’s term limited, to change who runs the Republican-dominated Legislature while she’s governor.

South Carolina’s most powerful lawmaker, Senate President Pro Tem Hugh Leatherman of Florence, easily defeated two Republican opponents with more than 54 percent of vote, avoiding a runoff to secure a 10th term. Beyond being the top senator, Leatherman’s other leadership roles include crafting the budget as Senate Finance chairman and sitting on a financial oversight board Haley chairs.

“He does a lot of good for our community and this area,” Larry Bacote told the Morning News while voting at West Florence High School.

Haley’s candidate, Florence County GOP Chairman Richard Skipper, received about 41 percent.

Senate Ethics Committee Chairman Luke Rankin of Myrtle Beach defeated Scott Pyle with 56 percent of the vote.

Neither Leatherman nor Rankin, first elected in 1992, has a Democratic challenger in November.

Sen. Wes Hayes lost his re-election bid to York County GOP Chairman Wes Climer, whom Haley backed. Climer had about 52 percent of the vote over Hayes, who was first elected to the House in 1984, then the Senate in 1991.

Haley had faulted Hayes, the leading senator on K-12 issues, for supporting a highway-funding bill last year that several opponents of increasing the gas tax blocked from receiving a floor vote.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Stephen Goldfinch advanced to a June 28 primary runoff with Reese Boyd. Haley endorsed Boyd in the race to replace retiring Sen. Ray Cleary. Goldfinch led the four-way race in the Grand Strand district with 44 percent of the vote over Boyd’s 37 percent.

A Haley political group, financed mostly by out-of-state donors, has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars over the last month running ads backing her opposition campaigns. Meanwhile, GOP Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster and other Haley allies worked to re-elect the incumbents.

Haley’s candidate in an open House seat also lost.

Katie Arrington won 62 percent of the vote in the race to replace state Rep. Jenny Horne, who lost her bid to unseat U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford. Haley had endorsed Dorchester County Council member Carroll Duncan, who’s also the mother-in-law of Board of Economic Advisors Chairman Chad Walldorf.

On social media Tuesday night, Haley did not mention anyone directly.

“We congratulate the winners of the primary elections, and also congratulate those who put themselves forward for public office but did not win tonight,” she posted on her Facebook page.

Incumbent senators advancing to a runoff include Senate Judiciary Chairman Larry Martin, who’s been a reliable ally for Haley. He will face off against former state Rep. Rex Rice in two weeks.

With 98 percent of precincts reporting, Martin had 45 percent of the total votes in the four-way race, while Rice had 33 percent.

GOP Sen. Lee Bright of Roebuck, the only incumbent publicly opposed by the state Chamber of Commerce’s political committee, led a four-way race with 38 percent of the total. He advances to a runoff with former state Rep. Scott Talley, who received 27 percent.

Senate Corrections Chairman Mike Fair of Greenville made it to the runoff by coming in second in his three-way race. Challenger William Timmons received just below 50 of the vote. Avoiding a runoff requires 50 percent plus one vote.

In the House, four Republicans lost their re-election bids: first-term Rep. Ralph Kennedy of Leesville, two-term Rep. Donna Hicks of Boiling Springs, three-term Rep. Doug Brannon of Landrum, and four-term Rep. Wendy Nanney of Greenville.

Democratic Rep. Bill Bowers of Hampton will face former Rep. Curtis Brantley in a runoff. Bowers defeated Brantley in 2012.

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