Charleston lawyer Marlon Kimpson finished far ahead of his five challengers in the Democratic primary for the District 42 Senate seat but still faces an Aug. 27 runoff against former Charleston City Councilman Maurice Washington.

Kimpson received about 44 percent of the vote, according to full, unofficial results, while Washington received 22 percent. Kimpson needed more than 50 percent to win outright.

“I thank God, my family and the community,” Kimpson said. “The people have spoken and they believe in our message.”

North Charleston businesswoman Margaret Rush held the No. 2 spot most of the night as votes trickled in but faded late, getting 61 fewer votes than Washington.

Voting was light all day, as fewer than 8 percent of the district’s 62,231 voters cast ballots.

The fourth place candidate was the other Charleston lawyer in the race, Emmanuel Ferguson, who received 7 percent. Retired jobs counselor Herbert S. Fielding, whose father previously served as the District 42 senator, finished with 6 percent. Contractor Bob Thompson, who bragged about how little money he was spending on the campaign, finished with less than 1 percent.

Ferguson said he was pleased he had the chance to run and would do some “serious thinking” about who to support in the runoff.

Kimpson, a former chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party, is making his first run for public office, and he had received significant financial backing — more than all of his opponents combined.

Washington, who recently served as a S.C. State University Trustee after he left City Council, had the backing of Robert Ford, whose May resignation in the wake of ethics issues led to the special election.

However, Washington faced unusual opposition from the chair of the Charleston County Democratic Party, who repeatedly reminded Democrats of Washington’s previous ties to the Republican party. He even is listed as a donor this year to Republican Gov. Nikki Haley’s re-election bid.

On Tuesday, Washington reached out to all his opponents, saying, “I feel blessed to be in a runoff given the caliber of the competition.”

He also acknowledged the obvious: He has a lot of ground to make up before Democrats return to the polls in two weeks. “We have a huge gap to close, but I believe I and my supporters are up to the challenge.”

Kimpson said voters on Aug. 27 will have a clear choice. “The people in District 42 largely are Democrats. I am a lifelong Democrat. Mr. Washington has said he’s a lifelong Republican,” he said.

The winner of the Kimpson-Washington runoff in two weeks will face Republican real estate agent Billy Shuman and Libertarian Alex Thornton in the Oct. 1 special election.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.