Former Gov. Mark Sanford will be in a runoff for the Republican nomination in the 1st Congressional District, but it was unclear who he would face in the April 2 GOP election.
With 99 percent of the precincts reporting tonight, Sanford had 37 percent of the vote. The race for second and a place in the April 2 runoff was a tight one between Curtis Bostic with 6,989 votes and Larry Grooms with 6,596.
Meanwhile, Elizabeth Colbert Busch was declared the winner in the Democratic primary. She had 96 percent to perennial candidate Ben Frasier’s 4 percent.
Voters trickled into voting booths across parts of five counties today, from Berkeley to Beaufort, to pick their party’s candidates to run for the seat vacated by U.S. Sen. Tim Scott.
Many voters were confused about who could vote: The 1st District’s lines were redrawn last year, resulting in some precincts being split between the 1st and 6th congressional districts.
“I’m not surprised (about the confusion),” said Scott Marshall, director of the Beaufort County Board of Elections. “When you take a look at the media market the candidates are covering, it reaches into the 6th district as well.”
This was South Carolina’s fastest-paced and most-crowded congressional primary in memory, with 16 Republicans and two Democrats on the ballot.
The U.S. Justice Department watched to ensure the state’s new photo ID law does not run afoul of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. This was the new law’s first major test at the polls.
That seemed to go smoothly, State Election Commission spokesman Chris Whitmire said.
“No news is good news in that if the Department of Justice saw some violation of federal law going on at the polls, I’m sure we would have heard about it,” he said.
After the polls closed, the Justice Department issued a vague statement.
“The department will review voting hotline calls and election monitoring reports for potential federal law violations that warrant further investigation,” it said. “If in the process of an investigation the department finds a violation occurred, we will take steps, potentially including legal action, to ensure compliance with federal laws.”
Joseph Debney, executive director of the Charleston County Board of Elections, said turnout was slow, and Joshua Dickard, director of elections and registration in Dorchester County, agreed: “Some locations didn’t have voters until 7:30 or 8 a.m.”
Wanda Farley, director of elections and registration in Berkeley County, said one of Berkeley County’s largest precincts only reported 28 voters at 9:30 a.m.
Marshall, the Beaufort County elections director, said voter turnout has been extremely light and he is not aware of any problems reported at the polls.
Many candidates had at least some appeal at the polls.
Danny Molony, of Mount Pleasant said he voted for Teddy Turner, son of media mogul Ted Turner, because he said he believes we need a change.
Knight Barton of West Ashley voted for former state Sen. John Kuhn. “He’s honest. He’s hardworking. He’s very thorough,” Barton said.
Amanda Maybank of West Ashley said she voted for state Sen. Larry Grooms. “There were a lot to choose from,” Maybank said. “I like that he didn’t go negative.”
Randy Ulbricht, 59, voted for former Dorchester County Sheriff Ray Nash, “a guy who would dig in his heels” and sticks to principles, he said.
Sandra Reed, 67, of West Ashley said she voted for Sanford. “I know all the problems with the personal but he’s always done right by the state,” Reed said.
Software developer Kelly DeBolt, 27, picked former Charleston County Councilman Bostic because he’s a home-schooler with strong opinions about the Constitution’s limits on government.
Mary Oliver, 70, voted for former Gov. Mark Sanford: “I still think he’s a good congressman. Lousy family man.”
The Democratic candidates included Colbert Busch, a Charleston businesswoman with a well-known comedian brother, and Ben Frasier, a perennial candidate who has run more than a dozen times.
Katy Richardson of West Ashley voted for Colbert Bush, sister of comedian Stephen Colbert. “I think we need more women in congress,” Richardson said.
The ultimate winners of the Republican and Democratic primaries will face off in a May 7 special election.
Andy Lyons, Natalie Caula, Glenn Smith, Lauren Sausser, Warren Wise and Doug Pardue contributed to this report. Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.