Republican voters in parts of James Island, West Ashley, North Charleston and Summerville will go to the polls Tuesday to choose their candidate for the Senate District 41 seat.
The race has undergone two twists since former Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond and incumbent Sen. Walter Hundley qualified for this runoff in a primary Sept. 18.
Last week, Hundley announced he has suspended his campaign, although his name still will appear on the ballot Tuesday.
Also, a federal lawsuit is challenging whether any Republican candidate should appear on the general election ballot Nov. 6. Specifically, it questions whether the S.C. Supreme Court’s decision to allow a special District 41 primary should have been pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department.
A hearing on that lawsuit won’t be held until Oct. 16, so it’s not expected to affect Tuesday’s runoff. Both Thurmond and Hundley and former GOP District 41 candidate Wally Burbage are defendants, as well as state and local election officials.
Meanwhile, Thurmond has remained on the campaign trail, showing up at events and buying political advertisements. He said his message has remained the same: He is running on his record as a conservative member of County Council.
Thurmond, son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, won 43 percent of the vote two weeks ago, short of the 50 percent-plus-one threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Thurmond said Hundley’s decision not to campaign wouldn’t change his strategy. “There are only two ways to run for office: scared or unopposed,” he said.
In July, Hundley won a special election to fill the remaining months left in the District 41 Senate term formerly held by Glenn McConnell. McConnell had to resign to become lieutenant governor after Lt. Gov. Ken Ard resigned and pleaded guilty to ethics violations.
Hundley originally said he would not seek the full four-year term, but he changed his mind because he thought his bid might be necessary to ensure there was a Republican on the ballot this fall, particularly in light of all the legal action swirling in the race.
But just four days after the Sept. 18 primary, he suspended his campaign, saying, “It appears that there is a consensus among Republican Party officials and Mr. Thurmond that he has been qualified to run in the special primary runoff.”
Hundley said Friday he has stayed in the race because he remains the only District 41 Republican candidate who has never been disqualified.
“How could I possibly stand down now? Then there would be no opponent, potentially,” he said. “I’ve never had the luxury of knowing how the courts are going to rule.”
The winner of Tuesday’s runoff will face Democrat and former Charleston City Councilman Paul Tinkler on Nov. 6 — unless the courts step in again.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.