RESULTS: Arrington defeats Sanford; McMaster, Warren head to runoff

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Congressman Mark Sanford lost his first race in South Carolina while Gov. Henry McMaster faces a runoff later this month with a Greenville businessman for the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

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Election officials in South Carolina report no significant problems as the polls close for the state's primary elections.

State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said Tuesday evening that a few counties reported heavier than normal turnout, but most places had light turnout. He says primary turnout typically ranges from 13 percent to 27 percent of registered voters. Whitmire says turnout has been heavier in Cherokee and Darlington counties, where there are sharply contested local races.

The chief races are Republican and Democratic primaries for governor. U.S. Rep Mark Sanford is facing a well-financed challenger who said he doesn't support President Donald Trump enough. State Rep. Katie Arrington was the subject of a Trump message on Twitter asking voters to pick her.

Governor's race

In the governor's race, incumbent Henry McMaster has been forced into a runoff for the Republican nomination in South Carolina's gubernatorial primary.

McMaster was an early supporter of President Donald Trump, and he was the top vote-getter in Tuesday's primary. But he failed to win the 50 percent necessary to avoid a runoff. Now, he and Greenville businessman John Warren are headed for a second contest June 26.

The vote tested the heft of Trump's endorsement in South Carolina, where McMaster became governor last year following Nikki Haley's departure to serve as U.N. ambassador. As lieutenant governor, McMaster was the nation's first statewide elected official to back Trump ahead of South Carolina's early presidential primary.

McMaster was unsuccessful in his 2010 gubernatorial bid, losing a four-way primary to Haley. The GOP nominee faces Democratic state Rep. James Smith in November.

McMaster and Warren beat out fellow GOP candidates Catherine Templeton, a Mount Pleasant attorney, current Lt. Gov. Kevin Bryant and former Lt. Gov. Yancey McGill.

The latest poll released Tuesday afternoon by the Trafalgar Group shows McMaster in the lead still with 44 percent of the vote, then John Warren behind him with 22 percent and Catherine Templeton with 20 percent.

Earlier, McMaster said he was confident he would be elected to his first full term as governor.

"I think we're working hard and we plan to win this primary," McMaster said. "If we go to a runoff, we plan to win the runoff. And if we got to the general election, which we will, we're going to win that, too. We're winning." 

Warren, who is new to the political game, got a last-minute boost and hoped that, combined with his status as a "political outsider," would lead him to success in the primary.

On the Democratic side, State Rep. James Smith, Phil Noble and Marguerite Willis are battling for their party's nomination for governor.

Smith, who is from Columbia, has the endorsement of former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and current Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin.

"I've been very encouraged by the turnout and the conversations that have been going on throughout this primary election cycle, but particularly today," he said. "The focus is on things like educating our kids and paving our roads and making sure we have affordable healthcare for everybody in our state, the kind of things that we can do, but we have to have the right leadership." 

Noble, a business and technology consultant from Charleston and founder of three statewide nonprofit initiatives, cast his vote Tuesday morning at Buist Academy.

He said he is confident about his chances and believes his supporters are looking for change in Columbia.

"The people of this state want something different," Noble said. "They want something other than the politics of usual from the people at the state house. And I am that person -- and people want to send Columbia a message." 

Willis, has never before sought elected office, according to her website. She has been a member of a major Columbia-based law firm and is the former first lady of Florence, where her husband, Frank, served as mayor.

She said she has encountered what she called "lots of unexpected wonderfulness" during the campaign. 

"I've met so many people who are wonderful people that I feel like my heart has been stretched," she said. "I have more room in my heart for the folks who are, as I like to call them, my neighbors, the folks who are in need in the Pee Dee and across the state and the support for just change."

First congressional district

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford lost his first race in South Carolina.

Sanford was defeated by state Rep. Katie Arrington in Tuesday's primary. Arrington was supported in a last-minute tweet by President Donald Trump after spending most of her campaign saying Sanford was too critical of the president.

Both Trump's tweet and one of Arrington's ads referred to Sanford's 2009 affair where he flew to Argentina to see his lover while his staff unknowingly told reporters he was hiking on the Appalachian trial. Still, South Carolina voters kept electing Sanford despite the lies and the infidelity. He had never lost a race going back to 1994 before Tuesday.

Arrington works for a defense contractor and will face Democrat Joe Cunningham in the fall.

As results came in late Tuesday night, Sanford told a crowd in suburban Charleston: "I've always been a realist and at this point, based on the numbers I see, I'm going to lose this race."

With much of the vote counted, state Rep. Katie Arrington was on the cusp of winning outright. But as Sanford spoke, the race was still too close to call.

Arrington says Sanford criticized Trump too much, calling him a "Never Trumper." One ad said, "it's time for Mark Sanford to take a hike - for real this time." The refers to 2009, when Sanford's aides said he was hiking the Appalachian Trail while he actually visited a woman with whom he was having an affair in Argentina.

Sanford had never lost an election in South Carolina, including two terms in the U.S. House after the affair surfaced.

On the Democratic side, Joe Cunningham won the nomination for the seat. He will face the winner of the Republican nomination. The GOP has won every election for that seat since 1980. 

Attorney general's race

State Attorney General Alan Wilson faced two Republican challengers. State Rep. Todd Atwater, the former top executive for the South Carolina Medical Association, and fellow challenger, William Herlong, a Greenville attorney with 32 years of practicing law, hope to take Wilson's seat.

Secretary of State's race

South Carolina Secretary of State Mark Hammond has won the Republican nomination again.

Early results from Tuesday's primary showed Hammond receiving more than two-thirds of the vote over three challengers.

One of those opponents pointed out in November that more than a hundred South Carolina laws passed for a decade did not have the state seal, which is one of the secretary of state's duties.

Hammond blamed human error for the problem.

Hammond will face Democrat Melvin Whittenburg in November's election as the incumbent seeks a fifth term.

He defeated state Rep. Joshua Putnam, who uncovered the seal problem, as well as Nelson Faerber and Kerry Wood in Tuesday's GOP primary.

Ballot questions

In addition to these and other races, voters faced ballot questions.

The Democratic Primary ballot questions asked about medical marijuana and whether the governor should be required to accept funds for state expansion efforts for Medicaid.

The Republican Primary ballot questions focus on whether voters should be allowed to affiliate with a political party when they register to vote and whether the state's tax code should be brought more in line with President Donald Trump's tax cuts.

The questions were included to give information to lawmakers.

If a runoff election is necessary, it will be held June 26. The general election is set for Nov. 6.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.

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