Norman squeaks out win

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Rock Hill Republican tops Democrat Parnell by 3-point margin

By Greg Summers

Ralph Norman is going to Congress, but his margin of victory in Tuesday’s special election was unexpectedly narrow.

Norman, a Republican and Rock Hill real estate developer, topped Democratic candidate Archie Parnell by just a 3-point margin. Norman tallied 44,889 votes to Parnell’s 42,035.
Norman takes the 5th District seat vacated when Mick Mulvaney became White House budget director. Mulvaney beat his Democratic opponent by 20 points last November.
Norman, along with family members and supporters, celebrated his victory Tuesday night at the Magnolia Room in Rock Hill. According to the Charleston Post and Courier, he told the crowd it’s time to go to work.
“Folks, tomorrow and together, we’re going to start anew,” Norman said. “What Washington desperately needs now are citizen legislators that are dedicated to leading a free people and to maintain our God-given right to the pursuit of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
This was his third try at the U.S. House seat for Norman, a former S.C. House member. He fell to 12-term Democratic Rep. John Spratt in 2006. He also lost the GOP nomination in 2010 to Mulvaney, who beat Spratt in that year’s Tea Party wave to end a century of Democratic dominance in the 5th District.
On Tuesday, Norman got 51 percent of the vote to Parnell’s 48 percent. American Party candidate Josh Thornton got 0.36 percent (319 votes). The Libertarian Party’s Victor Kocher got 0.31 percent (272 votes) and Green Party nominee David Kulma received 0.28 cpercent (242 votes).
Turnout across the district was 18 percent.
The 5th District includes all of parts of 11 counties – Lancaster, Cherokee, Chester, Fairfield, Kershaw, Lee, Newberry, Spartanburg, Sumter, Union and York. The race was close in Union County, where Norman won by a scant 39 votes.
Norman, who had the most name recognition in the conservative-leaning district, was the top vote-getter in seven counties. That included Lancaster, where he won both the GOP primary on May 2 and the down-to-the-wire runoff May 16 against S.C. House Speaker Pro Tem Tommy Pope. The closeness of the runoff (less than 1 percent separation) triggered a recount that Norman won by 221 votes.    
The Lancaster County totals were 6,231 votes for Norman and 4,978 votes for Parnell.
Parnell, a Sumter native, won his home county, as well as Chester and Lee counties.
The former tax attorney and senior adviser for the Wall Street firm Goldman Sachs thanked his supporters at a Sumter gathering late Tuesday. The campaign posted a video of his remarks on Facebook.
He said he had called Norman to congratulate him.
“Tonight did not turn out the way we had hoped. There is no doubt about that,” Parnell said, noting that his first run for public office had been filled with ups and downs.
“But I would not trade a second of it. It’s been so special,” he said. “We’ve done something remarkable here. We stood against the rising tide of bitterness and division, offering the people a new vision of hope.”  
Turnout is traditionally low in special elections, and Tuesday’s was no different. Amid Tuesday’s pelting rains, only 89,891 of the 492,731 eligible 5th District voters cast ballots (18 percent), including 11,312 in Lancaster County (19 percent).  

Follow reporter Greg Summers on Twitter @GregSummersTLN or contact him at (803) 283-1156.