By Stan Welch – In the most unusual primary election in the state’s history, incumbents dominated the local results. State Senators Billy O’Dell and Kevin Bryant both defeated their opponents who were in their first political races. O’Dell defeated Riley Harvell, son of Dan Harvell, the chairman of the Anderson County Republican Party.
O’Dell defeated Harvell by some 370 votes in Anderson County, and by an even larger margin in Abbeville and Greenwood Counties, where the bulk of his district lies. The final margin of victory in the Anderson results was 58% to 42%.
Speaking to The Journal late in the evening, when the results had become clear, Senator O’Dell said, “Riley Harvell ran a good race. I’m grateful to the people I have served for all these years, for their support and confidence in me. And I look forward to the next four years.”
Bryant led from wire to wire, easily defeating Don Bowen Jr., son of incumbent State Rep. Don Bowen Sr., whose primary opponent was a casualty of the Supreme Court ruling last month that swept more than 200 candidates from the ballot across the state. Bryant won more than 75% of the vote.
State Representative Joshua Putnam easily defeated Hamp Johnson in the District 10 race, winning 61% of the vote. Putnam is the state’s youngest House member at age 23. He began his political career by winning a special election, also against Johnson, to fill the unexpired term of former chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, Dan Cooper, who resigned in 2011.
In the only County Council race where an incumbent faced a challenge, District One Councilman Francis Crowder defeated John Benca by a narrow margin of 108 votes.
Two Democrats faced off for the nomination for the U.S. House of Representatives currently held by Republican Jeff Duncan. Brian Doyle, a Greenwood radio talk show host, handily defeated Cason Gaither. Duncan had no challenge in the Republican primary.
The primaries of both parties were damaged and diminished by a Supreme Court ruling that upheld a law requiring that a candidate file their statement of economic interest at the same time that they filed their statement of candidacy. Due to a widespread misunderstanding of that requirement, more than 200 candidates, Democrat and Republican, were not certified to be on the ballot.
The mass decertifications, along with bad weather locally, led to the lowest voter turnout in many years, with only 9.57% of Anderson County’s 106,000 registered voters voting.
Among candidates removed from the ballots just days before the primaries were Creed Hashe, who was challenging Sheriff John Skipper in the Republican primary. Ted Luckadoo was running against Don Bowen, S.C. for the S.C. House seat, but was decertified. Also removed from the ballot were challengers for several county council seats.
Several local candidates are already gathering signatures on petitions needed to run in November.