State Rep. Chip Limehouse slipped past challenger Russell Guerard by a mere 39 votes in his District 110 GOP primary Tuesday, according to unofficial results.

Guerard, a Charleston real estate broker whose father served in the Statehouse a generation ago and whose grandfather was governor, held an early lead over Limehouse, a businessman seeking his 11th consecutive term in Columbia.

That lead vanished, and Limehouse's 50.53 percent total appeared to be just enough - by two votes - to avoid a mandatory recount. It's unclear how many challenged or paper ballots may be considered when the results are certified this week.

"My hat's off to him," Guerard said. "He ran a great campaign."

Limehouse said he was "deeply honored that the voters once again placed their trust in me," adding that he was disappointed at the low turnout. He said the race's negative tone likely kept voters away.

"He did run an extremely negative campaign," Limehouse said, "and the negative campaign had an impact on the race."

The primary marked the end to an unusually competitive race in which the candidates didn't debate and held few joint appearances. Many described the contest as polite and unusually low key - until a series of recent bruising mailings.

Guerard's campaign mailings accused Limehouse of abuse of power and corruption in connection with his service on the Charleston County Aviation Authority board.

But it was a different mail-out about Guerard's voting history and past political donations that led Guerard to file a lawsuit Monday against Limehouse - a lawsuit that Limehouse dismissed as "just another example of the negative attacks that many voters have recently received in the mail by my opponent."

The district covers much of Charleston's historic district, where both candidates live, but two-thirds of its voters are in Mount Pleasant. Limehouse lost downtown but won 55-45 in Mount Pleasant, said Mark Hartley, a Limehouse backer and former Charleston County GOP chairman.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.