GREENVILLE — Former state Sen. Lee Bright will face state Sen. William Timmons in a runoff for South Carolina's 4th congressional district GOP primary race, according to unofficial results Tuesday night. 

Bright, a brash conservative firebrand from Spartanburg, garnered about a quarter of the vote by the time most ballots had been counted in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Results from Greenville County came in much slower Tuesday than most other parts of the state.

State Rep. Dan Hamilton, R-Greenville, was just a few hundred votes behind Timmons, both of whom hovered around 19 percent. They will likely be within the margin to trigger an automatic recount.

Timmons immediately began labeling Bright as too extreme, saying "he is a good man, but he is not the right fit for Washington — that might be putting it lightly."

Bright, meanwhile, cast the race as a contest between his "conservative record and an establishment-backed candidate in the mold of Lindsey Graham."

The winner of the June 26 runoff will face one of two Democrats in November for the chance to replace U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-Spartanburg. Democratic contenders Brandon Brown and Lee Turner are set to compete in their own runoff for the party's nomination, though whichever one gets it will be a significant underdog.

Gowdy's sudden announcement in January that he would not seek reelection sparked a swift barrage of contenders looking to replace him, a field that eventually swelled to 13 before one dropped out.

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The dozen remaining candidates devoted much of their campaigns touting their support for President Donald Trump's agenda in Congress, a sign of Trump's enduring popularity in this conservative Upstate district.

Due in large part to his well-known reputation as an outspoken social conservative from his years in the state Senate, Bright emerged early in the race as the most likely contender to make the runoff and never looked back.

Outside money poured into the contest in the final weeks. The Club for Growth, a national conservative advocacy group, spent more than $400,000 to support former Spartanburg GOP chairman Josh Kimbrell and oppose Hamilton and Timmons. The National Association of Realtors spent heavily to boost Hamilton, one of their own.

But Timmons spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own cash on the race, which blanketed the airwaves in the Upstate.

Timmons is now likely to receive an outpouring of support from business groups, who rabidly opposed Bright and helped assure his 2016 state Senate GOP primary loss to Scott Talley.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina Statehouse, congressional delegation and campaigns. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.

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