By Stan Welch
Despite facing a five man field, State Rep. Mike Gambrell almost closed out the deal in Tuesday night’s special election to fill the Senate seat vacated by Senator Billy O’Dell’s untimely passing early this year. With a somewhat heavier turnout than was anticipated, at eight per cent, Gambrell won forty six per cent of the vote with 2,149 votes.
Williamston businessman and town councilman Rockey Burgess was the second highest vote getter with 1,505 or 32 percent.
A fifty per cent plurality was needed to avoid a runoff, which will now be held on April 5 between the top two vote getters.
While Gambrell led Burgess in Anderson, Greenwood and Abbeville counties, political newcomer Tripp Padgett carried his home county of Greenwood, costing Gambrell the outright win.
Padgett finished third in the five man race. with 661 votes, or 14 percent.
Anderson resident Willie Day received 294 votes, or 6 percent while Williamston resident Mark Powell received 109 votes, or 2 percent.
Nevertheless, Gambrell told The Journal that he was pleased to get forty six per cent in a five man field.
“That’s hard to argue with. We came right down to the wire with a chance to finish it out, but we’ll just crank it up and keep working. The turnout was light, but considering the level of election fatigue that is out there right now, eight per cent was actually a little heavier than I expected. I appreciate everyone who turned out to vote for me. Their trust means a great deal.”
Gambrell was on his way to Columbia Wednesday morning, for the third reading of the state budget by the House. “After that, we’ll get back on the trail.”
In Anderson County precincts, Gambrell topped the fifty per cent figure with 50.96 per cent of the vote. Burgess also outperformed his District wide numbers, with 37.4 per cent.
Willie Day, of Anderson, polled 7.8 per cent, while Williamston resident Mark Powell polled 2.65 per cent. Padgett barely got on the board with 1.1 per cent.
Burgess credited the big turnout for him in Williamston for his good showing in Anderson County.
“The folks in town really turned out huge for me, and that made a big difference. I think we did pretty well for the short time and the small budget we had to get our message out. We’ll rally the troops and get our noses back to the grindstone.”
The winner of the April 5 runoff is not expected to face any opposition in the May 17 special election to fill the seat for the remaining months of the term.