Hundley ekes out 14-vote victory

In the senate district 41 race to fill the unexpired term of now Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell, Republican candidate Walter Hundley talks with his son Richards at an election night gathering at the Town and Country Inn on Tuesday July 17, 2012. (Wade Spees/

Republican Walter Hundley surged ahead as the final precinct was tallied Tuesday to narrowly win a Senate District 41 special election, according to complete unofficial results.

Hundley defeated Democrat Paul Tinkler by only 14 votes out of more than 6,100 cast, a razor-thin margin that will trigger an automatic recount. “It is remarkable, isn’t it?” Tinkler said moments after the full results came in. “We told people every vote counts. We weren’t kidding.”

Hundley, who had gathered with his supporters at the Town and Country Inn on Savannah Highway, expressed thanks.

“I’m very proud of all the people who spent an enormous amount of time to support me and my family in this very long battle,” he said.

Tinkler held a narrow lead as the results trickled in, and he was leading by 99 votes before the final precinct, from Republican-leaning Seabrook Island, put Hundley ahead.

Tinkler said he also was proud of his supporters to get him into a dead heat, “and we are looking forward to having all the votes counted and validated. We still believe we will probably win this race.”

Green Party candidate Sue Edward had almost 1 percent of the vote.

The Charleston County Board of Elections and Voter Registrations will meet at 10 a.m. Friday to review challenged ballots and certify a winner. The ultimate winner of the race to fill Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s former Senate seat will serve only four months, until the winner of the Nov. 6 Senate 41 election is sworn in.

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In a remarkable election year reshaped by an S.C. Supreme Court ruling tossing more than 200 Republicans and Democrats off the ballot, Hundley had to survive his own Circuit Court hearing Monday, less than 24 hours before Tuesday’s vote. The judge found Hundley had filed his ethics forms properly.

Hundley called on his opponent to stop trying to win elections in the courtroom.

“The Democrats obviously are trying to take away people’s choice in the courts,” he said. “I trust the voters. Apparently, Democrats do not.”

Tuesday’s turnout was light across the board, with fewer than 10 percent of the district’s 73,856 voters going to the polls.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.