Tim Scott finished with a roughly 2-1 edge over Paul Thurmond in the 1st Congressional District GOP primary Tuesday, but a fresh start means a new battleground.
With almost two weeks to go until the June 22 runoff, both men said they were planning to target the vote-rich Grand Strand, a now up-for-grabs region where each candidate hopes to increase his name recognition beyond the collective home base of Charleston.
But while travel plans were being scheduled to the north, there was other work to be done Wednesday -- raising money, returning congratulatory phone calls and juggling a bevy of media questions surrounding the historic nature of the race.
Within moments of the results being announced late Tuesday that triggered the runoff, media outlets from around the world began focusing on the fact that Thurmond is a son of former Dixiecrat segregationist Strom Thurmond, while Scott is trying to be the next black Republican in Congress.
Both candidates said they want to avoid that story line in the next two weeks, saying the past has nothing to do with the present as they try to portray themselves as the stronger conservative choice to keep the 1st District seat in GOP hands.
The winner faces Democrat Ben Frasier in the general election Nov. 2.
"I'm anxious to get out there and show how I can be effective," Thurmond said Wednesday before a news conference with supporters under the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge in Mount Pleasant.
Scott, a state representative, said a foreign reporter was "trying to make (the runoff) a racial thing," as he described an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp.
Scott received 32 percent of the vote Tuesday, winning outright in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties. Thurmond, a member of Charleston County Council, finished second by drawing 16 percent of the turnout across all five counties of the coastal 1st District.
A runoff was called because no one in the race broke the 50 percent-plus-one threshold needed to win the nomination outright. About 80,674 votes were cast.
By Wednesday morning, Thurmond had taken a large step toward gaining field momentum, getting endorsements from four of the other candidates in what had been a nine-way race.
Now backing him are third-place finisher Carroll Campbell, son of the former governor; Stovall Witte, former chief of staff to retiring 1st District Rep. Henry Brown; Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Ken Glasson; and Horry County accountant Clark Parker.
Scott was endorsed by Army Reservist Katherine Jenerette, who also was in the race.
Charleston attorney Larry Kobrovsky said he would stay neutral.
On paper, shifting the battle northward for at least part of the next two weeks makes sense for both candidates, since neither won in those areas up coastal U.S. Highway 17.
Campbell, for instance, finished first in Georgetown County, while Parker won his home county of Horry, according to unofficial results.
There also was growing interest that one or more debates could be scheduled between the two. Scott's time slots might be the hardest to work around, though, given that he has to be in Columbia for three days next week to deal with Gov. Mark Sanford's vetoes.
One likely joint appearance will be Saturday morning at the Lowcountry Republican Breakfast Club in Summerville, where numerous GOP runoff candidates are expected to attend.
Some of the early sparring points already have surfaced, with Thurmond saying Scott's across-the-board opposition to earmarks could cost much-needed dredging dollars for Charleston Harbor, while Scott said budgets need to be tightened in D.C., with dredging pursued through the open bill-writing process.
Registered voters who voted Republican on Tuesday can vote in the June 22 GOP primary, as can registered voters who stayed home.Those who voted Democratic on Tuesday can vote only if their party has a runoff in their area, such as Charleston County Council District 8. There are no statewide Democratic runoffs.
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