Republican Ralph Norman won the special election to fill South Carolina‘s vacant seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as expected, but the finally tally was surprising. Democrat Archie Parnell finished just 3.2 percent behind Norman with 47.9 percent and 42,053 votes. Norman received 51.1 percent, or 44,889 votes. In total, 87,840 votes were cast.
Here is the complete vote tally:
“It’s a good win, and we’re excited,” Norman told the Associated Press. “We’re looking forward to getting to work in Washington.” Norman also called PArnell “a good candidate” and said his campaign expected it to be close.
The seat had been vacant since President Donald Trump chose Mick Mulvaney as his White House Budget Director. Mulvaney held the seat since 2011, when he unseated Democrat John Spratt.
Unlike the race between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff in Georgia, the South Carolina race never attracted national attention because it wasn’t expected to be this close. After all, Trump easily won the district with 57 percent of the vote and Mulvaney himself was re-elected with 59 percent of the vote. So Norman might have won, but with 8 percent less of the vote compared to Mulvaney’s election just eight months ago.
Another surprise in this election was just how much closer it was compared to the race in Georgia. So far, with 80 percent reporting in that race, Republican Handel is ahead of Democrat Ossoff, 52.5 to 47.5 percent. That race was the most expensive Congressional race in history, with $51 million spent by the two candidates and their supporters.
Norman has held elective office before. From 2004 to 2006 and 2008 to 2017, Norman served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, representing District 48. He was one of 15 Republican candidates in a primary in May and he led all candidates in fundraising. Outside of politics, he worked as a real estate developer. He also embraced Trump’s support of his candidacy, even pinning the President’s tweet with his name on his Twitter page.
As for Parnell, he is a tax attorney who worked for ExxonMobil and Goldman Sachs. This was his first political campaign. His link to Goldman Sachs might have been one reason why his candidacy didn’t energize Democrats nationally like Ossoff’s did, one Democratic operative told Roll Call before the election. But Parnell still won four of the 11 counties in the district.
South Carolina’s fifth Congressional district is famed for being the district Kevin Spacey’s character Frank Underwood represented in Netflix’s House of Cards. Before Mulvaney rode the Tea Party wave to Congress in 2011, the district had been represented by Democrats from 1883 to 2011. The district covers counties north of Columbia and includes the city of Rock Hill.
The three Congressional special elections since Trump took office have all gone in the Republicans’ favor, despite Trump’s own low approval ratings. In addition to the GOP’s wins in South Carolina and Georgia, Republican Greg Gianforte won in Montana. Trump won all three states in the November election.