Former Mount Pleasant Town Councilman Paul Gawrych narrowly won the three-way GOP race for Charleston County auditor, based on unofficial results.

But the wife of one of his competitors said she will hire a lawyer today to challenge Gawrych’s candidacy because he did not turn in a paper copy of his Statement of Economic Interest — the same problem that has knocked almost 250 other South Carolina candidates off the ballot.

With all precincts in, Gawrych had 51 percent, compared with 31 percent for incumbent Peggy Moseley.

Gawrych needed 50 percent of the vote plus one to avoid a June 26 runoff against Moseley.

He said late Tuesday he did not expect his outright win at all. “We did a poll 3½weeks ago, and we were in third place,” he said.

Former Charleston County School Board member David Engelman had 18 percent.

If the results stand, Gawrych will face Democratic challenger Peter Tecklenburg on Nov. 6.

Moseley could not be reached for comment, and Engelman quickly announced he would break party lines in the fall, saying, “I will support, as a Republican, Peter Tecklenburg. He’s a good man. ... I think he would be the better candidate.”

Moments later, his wife and former School Board member Sandi Engelman, said she would challenge Gawrych’s status based on her observations of him on filing day. “Gawrych does not deserve it. He did not file the right paperwork,” she said. “Everybody has been covering this up.”

Engelman’s wife said she is glad her husband lost Tuesday and did not want to raise the problem earlier for fear that Charleston County GOP Chairwoman Lin Bennett would disqualify Engelman.

Gawrych said he is confident he will prevail in any dispute. “If somebody wants to file (a challenge), file away,” he said. “It is sour grapes. … She is not a happy person. It’s very, very clear.”

The auditor is largely a bureaucratic post that sets property tax rates and issues tax bills, and Moseley has cruised to re-election before without a fight.

But this year was different. She caught flak for last fall’s delays in mailing out tax bills and also for seeking a controversial tax break for her Johns Island property. Moseley briefly withdrew her re-election bid in March before changing her mind.

Moseley first was elected auditor in 1992. The auditor is a full-time position that pays about $91,000 a year.

Gawrych had raised $26,050 toward his bid, according to his pre-election report filed with the State Ethics Commission. Moseley had raised $25,558, while Engelman raised $6,293.

Gawrych, the sole candidate from Mount Pleasant, was heartened by initial reports of heavier turnout in East Cooper precincts. “That’s good math,” he said at the time.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.