- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 23, 2020

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - One of South Carolina’s most powerful senators survived a runoff challenge Tuesday.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Luke Rankin won the Republican nomination for his Horry County seat after being pushed to a runoff by financial planner John Gallman, who said Rankin wasn’t conservative enough on issues like abortion.

Rankin is almost certain to win an eighth four-year term in November as no Democrat filed to run for the seat.

Runoffs have been treacherous for longtime Republican senators before. Former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Larry Martin, with 38 years in the General Assembly, and Sen. Wes Hayes, with 32 years in the Legislature, were upset in runoffs in 2016.

The only other Republican incumbents forced into runoffs were two House members. Rep. Bill Chumley of Spartanburg County and Rep. Neal Collins of Pickens County each won their runoffs.

Runoffs were needed in 23 of the state’s 46 counties after the June 9 primaries. Just 10 of the 170 seats in the General Assembly had runoffs because the winner did not get 50% of the vote two weeks ago.

No major problems were reported Tuesday even though the COVID-19 pandemic meant fewer polling places than usual opened and inexperienced poll workers.

That wasn’t the case in the June 9 primaries, especially in Richland County, where five precincts were combined at a high school and the final votes weren’t cast until after midnight - five hours after polls were supposed to close.

Other Richland County voters reported the wrong races on their ballots and said poll workers were encouraging them to vote even after pointing out their choices weren’t in their districts.

The South Carolina Election Commission is working with Richland County to get enough workers to the busiest precincts and better distribute voting machines, agency spokesman Chris Whitmire said.

Turnout for the 2020 primaries was 23%, where the only statewide race was U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham winning the Republican nomination. In 2018, with contested primaries for both parties for governor, the turnout was about 20%.


Follow Jeffrey Collins on Twitter at https://twitter.com/JSCollinsAP.

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