Local Statehouse races: Charleston, Berkeley Dorchester
House Speaker Bobby Harrell cruised to early victory Tuesday, putting away minor challenges from the right and left to win another term in Columbia.
Harrell, R-Charleston, had 74 percent of the vote, according to unofficial returns, for the West Ashley-anchored House District 114 seat heís held since 1992.
He faced two little-known challengers: petition candidate and Fair Tax advocate John Steinberger, and Green Party hopeful Larry Carter Center.
The win preserves a top spot in Columbia for a Charleston voice after former state Sen. Glenn McConnell had to give up his Senate leadership post to become lieutenant governor.
With 54 percent of precincts reporting, Steinberger drew 16 percent of the turnout compared to 10 percent for Center, according to unofficial numbers.
Meanwhile, the trend showed the political makeup of Lowcountry representation in Columbia on track to stay the same but with the possibility of a one-seat Republican pickup in Dorchester County.
In the House District 97 race, longtime Democratic incumbent Patsy Knight held back a challenge from Republican Ed Carter. Unofficial returns gave Knight the lead over Carter.
Dorchester officials reported a computer error that left a majority of votes unrecorded late Tuesday.
The seat represents most of Dorchester County outside Summerville and a slice of Colleton County. Carter is a former county administrator. Knight is the lone resident Democrat in the county delegation. She has held the seat since 2006.
Other competitive Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester races included:
House District 115 covering James Island and Folly Beach where first-term incumbent Republican and former prosecutor Peter McCoy turned back a challenge from petition candidate Carol Tempel.
Unofficial returns gave McCoy 67 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Tempel, with 86 percent of precincts reporting.
House District 102 covering parts of Berkeley and Dorchester counties where Democratic incumbent Joe Jefferson led Republican newcomer Allan Weiss.
Jefferson has held the seat since 2004.
Prior to this year Weiss had never run for office. With 80 percent of precincts reporting, Jefferson led Weiss 62 percent to 38 percent.
The House District 100 race in Berkeley County featured a rematch of sorts but ended the same. Republican incumbent Eddie Southard again was challenged by Democrat Tonia Aiken-Taylor, just like in a September 2011 race to fill the unexpired term created by the death of Rep. David Umphlett.
The district is not the same because of reapportionment. But the results were the same. Southard drew 69 percent of the vote to Aiken-Taylorís 31 percent with 94 percent of precincts counted.