Sen. Martin’s gracious example

Six-term state Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, lost his seat to Rex Rice last week in a Republican primary runoff. (File Photo)

Political campaigns and outcomes inevitably produce hard feelings. And in an election year when the tide of divisive animus is already running remarkably high, expect a flood of sore-loser bitterness in the wake of the Nov. 8 results — and not just in the presidential race.

But last week, a longtime South Carolina legislator taught a sadly rare lesson in how to accept defeat at the polls with grace.

Larry Martin, during his six terms in the state Senate, has earned a reputation for integrity, insight and bipartisan cooperation. The Pickens County Republican has been willing to buck the hard-right positions of many fellow GOP lawmakers in Columbia. Last year, he backed the removal of the Confederate flag from the Statehouse grounds. This year, as head of the Judiciary Committee, he agreed to hold hearings on gun-control proposals this summer.

However, Sen. Martin’s quests for compromise, along with growing public disdain for incumbents and political business as usual, made him more vulnerable to this year’s primary challenge from former state Rep. Rex Rice.

Sen. Martin did finish first in the initial, four-person GOP primary on June 14 with 45 percent of the vote to 33 percent for Mr. Rice. Yet he lost last week’s runoff by 54-46 percent.

Many politicians rejected by voters sulk. For instance, after Sen. Lee Bright, R-Spartanburg, narrowly lost his seat to former state Rep. Scott Talley in last week’s runoff, he cast himself as the victim of a “negative campaign.” Citing the backing of Mr. Talley by the state Chamber of Commerce and the Conservation Voters of S.C., Sen. Bright told the Spartanburg Herald-Journal: “Democratic groups flooded money in and they were able to win this race.”

So since when is the state Chamber of Commerce a “Democratic” group? And many thoroughly conservative Republicans correctly share the land-preservation goals of the Conservation Voters of South Carolina, an organization that gave Mr. Bright the lowest grade of any senator in the Statehouse.

Unlike Sen. Bright, Sen. Martin didn’t whine over the voters’ verdict. Instead, he offered impressive congratulations to Mr. Rice, telling The Greenville News: “I hand it to Rex and his campaign and wish him the very best. The people of the county have been very good to me for a number of years in their support of me and I hope they will be equally supportive of him.”

And we hope that after the votes are counted in November, more people will follow Sen. Martin’s admirable example, facilitating common-ground solutions in the process.

Sen. Martin isn’t just a good legislator.

He’s a good sport.