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Republicans still on the trail for primary wins

Red state runoff well under way

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We bet you thought your neighbor's yard would be cleaned up by June 8. Well, not so fast. Several GOP primary races are going into extra innings, sending Republican voters back to the polls on Tues. June 22.

Congress

Locally, attention is going to be on the race to fill the open Congressional seat representing the 1st District. State Rep. Tim Scott led a field of nine Republican candidates with 31 percent of the vote. Paul Thurmond came in second with 16 percent to make the runoff. It'll be tough for Thurmond to climb back into the lead, but more than 50 percent of the primary voters picked someone else, so he has reason to be hopeful.

That said, Scott is going to have to stumble on the trail in the next two weeks, says Jeri Cabot, a political science professor at the College of Charleston. Meanwhile, Thurmond will have to start highlighting the differences between the two candidates.

"What has he said that's any different from what Scott has said?" asks Cabot.

Playing an important part in this race is whether Myrtle Beach and Georgetown will come out to the polls. Neither have a dog in this fight, with both candidates hailing from the Lowcountry, but they may vote for whoever seems likely to get federal funding for long-delayed Interstate 73.

And turnout will be key. Thurmond did well in Georgetown and Horry, but Scott brought out a lot of voters from the rest of the district. It's all going to depend on who returns to the polls

Several of the other primary candidates have endorsed Thurmond, including Carroll Campbell, Clark Parker, Ken Glasson, and Stovall Witte. But Cabot says the endorsements won't mean much if Thurmond can't distinguish himself from Scott.

Governor

If this was any other campaign season, state Rep. Nikki Haley would hardly have to lift a finger for the next two weeks. With 49 percent of the vote on Primary Day, she was just shy of winning this thing outright — a tall feat in a very competitive race with three other well-heeled candidates.

Congressman Gresham Barrett was the runner-up, with 26 percent of the vote. And he's likely making a go of it for one good reason: scandal. Haley has been plagued for the last two weeks with not one but two affair allegations. His latest campaign ad refers to candidates who "embarrass South Carolina" and his tagline is "Honest. Conservative." Unofficially, Barrett has got to hope for a third affair allegation from the grassy knoll or proof of one of the last two. Until then, he's going to have to chip away at Haley's conservative credentials, looking at her record in the Statehouse.

"It has to be something to bring her ideology into question," Cabot says.

Those paying attention have already seen how Haley's games of obstruction will likely mirror Gov. Mark Sanford's term. But Cabot says inattentive voters will likely focus on Haley's promises to reform Columbia, regardless of her ability to accomplish that task.

"Voters don't necessarily know that elected officials need to get along," she says.

Both candidates have been critical of their opponent's record — Barrett's support of TARP and Haley's perfunctory votes for stimulus spending.

Barrett is going to have to tread lightly to avoid burning bridges. If this doesn't turn around for him, and it's likely it won't, he may want to try again, and he'll need the support of those Haley voters.

Other Races

The six candidates for the GOP nomination for state education superintendent have been cut down to two: Newberry College President Mick Zais and Lowcountry business owner Elizabeth Moffly. Frank Holleman easily won the Democratic primary. Holleman will need to figure out what worked for current Superintendent Jim Rex in 2006.

With a slim margin on June 8, the Republican runoff for state attorney general may be the most hotly contested, with prosecutor Alan Wilson, son of Joe "You Lie" Wilson, ahead of second-place finisher Leighton Lord by only 7,000 votes among the nearly 384,000 cast. Lord's likely to find some increased support in the Lowcountry by touting his work as Boeing's attorney in negotiated state incentives.

Oh, and there's this race for the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor, between former state legislator Ken Ard of Florence and Orangeburg attorney and veteran Bill Connor. But, considering the failed gubernatorial aspirations of the last two lite gov's, the one who loses might be better off.

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