The state Republican party no longer plans to hold a March 14 debate among candidates seeking the 1st Congressional District, citing too many in the race.

Instead, it will hold a two-candidate debate on March 28 — nine days after voters decide who will be in the runoff, S.C. GOP Chair Chad Connelly announced today.

Technically, one Republican candidate could win the March 19 primary outright if he or she manages to get more than 50 percent of the vote, but the jam-packed field makes that the longest of shots.

Connelly made the announcement this morning at Porter-Gaud, the private school in West Ashley where the debate will be held.

The cancellation of the March 14 debate — which was expected to be the sole televised forum for the candidates — is the most concrete example of how challenging it has been to vet such a large field.

“It’s pretty difficult to put 16 podiums on a stage,” Connelly said. “It’s not exactly a made-for-TV event.”

Connelly said the party considered winnowing down the field for the debate, but that idea didn’t pan out.

Sixteen candidates is believed to be a modern-day record for a South Carolina congressional race, though a similar race in Illinois to fill former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat has drawn more than 20 candidates. There are also two Democrats in their own March 19 primary and the potential for third-party candidates still to emerge.

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