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Hundreds of anxious Mick Mulvaney supporters waited for news about the 5th Congressional District race Tuesday night at the Bradley Arts and Sciences Building at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster.
Soon after polls closed at 7 p.m., they were huddled around flat-screen televisions scattered around the room. Cheers, sighs or gasps would occasionally burst from the crowd as votes poured in and the news channels reported the tallies.
Donnie Jones, chairman of the Indian Land Republican Party, kept his eyes trained on the giant screen in the middle of the room. At about 7:45 p.m., he watched as the first 5th District results began trickling in.
“There was a lot of energy today and people wanted to express their opinions,” said Jones, who visited 14 precincts throughout the day. “This was their opportunity to make a stand and turn the country around.”
Ronald Reese Page, a recent Wofford College graduate and Darlington County resident, left his job to volunteer with Mulvaney’s campaign. Page had been up until 3 a.m. on Tuesday installing campaign signs across the 18 precincts in his county.
“I learned a lot about how to get things done,” Page said. “No one can say we didn’t do anything.”
At 8:45 p.m., one news channel reported that Mulvaney’s lead was 62 to 38 percent, with 12 percent of the votes in.
Clad in red “Beat Spratt” T-shirts, Melissa Bennett Melvin and her 15-year-old daughter, Sarah Schaeffer, threw their hands in the air and cheered.
Schaeffer first met Mulvaney at a campaign event this summer near the York and Chester county line. At the event, Schaeffer impressed Mulvaney after she spontaneously interviewed him with her mother’s video camera. He later offered her a volunteer position with the campaign.
“The experience has been really exciting,” she said.
By 9 p.m. Bob and Fran Bundy, residents who voted at the Spring Hill precinct earlier in the day, said they were both happy about the way the races were going.
“We’ve been excited to see this,” Bob Bundy said. “It’s really encouraging.”
“I’ve been in the area for 30 years and I’ve never seen such enthusiasm,” Fran Bundy said.
At 10 p.m., Spratt trailed by 6 percentage points with 57 percent of precincts reporting.
Less than a half-hour later, Mulvaney’s lead had increased to 9 percentage points, with 67 percent of precincts reporting.
A little after 11 p.m., one news channel declared Mulvaney the winner.
With a wild roar, the crowd inside began clapping and screaming, while several blue and white Mulvaney signs shot into the air.
A few minutes later, Mulvaney walked into the room with his campaign team and his wife, Pam.
As camera flashes filled the room, Mulvaney thanked the crowd before starting his acceptance speech with a joke.
“Oh, man, I have no idea what I’m going to say. You all have a lot of nerve knowing I’m going to arrest half of you for having Social Security,” Mulvaney said, making a joke about a Spratt TV ad that aired frequently during the campaign.
Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (803) 416-8416