Thurmond wins Dist. 41 GOP runoff

Thurmond

Former Charleston County Councilman Paul Thurmond handily won the Republican runoff Tuesday for the District 41 Senate seat, and he will face Democrat Paul Tinkler on Nov. 6, if the courts allow it.

Thurmond defeated incumbent Sen. Walter Hundley by more than a 2-1 ratio in light voting, according to full, unofficial results.

“I’m certainly very grateful for the hundreds of voters who decided to go back to the polls yet again,” Thurmond said. Because of an unexpired term and court rulings, Republicans in the district have had a half-dozen elections this year.

“I’m looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the differences between the Democrats and myself in the upcoming election,” Thurmond added.

Turnout was even lighter than it was two weeks ago, when fewer than 5 percent of registered voters voted in the three-way primary.

Only 2,494 of the district’s 74,231 registered voters cast ballots Tuesday.

On Sept. 18, Thurmond, son of the late U.S. Sen. Strom Thurmond, and Hundley qualified for Tuesday’s runoff by getting more votes than Charleston businessman Wally Burbage.

Hundley is serving the final few months of Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell’s old Senate term and previously announced he would not campaign for the runoff. He halted all phone-bank work and new ads.

Hundley said he remained in the race in case courts determine that Thurmond, whose candidacy was nullified by the courts after his June 12 primary win, lost again in court.

While a judge ruled Thurmond ineligible, he allowed the Republican Party to hold a new primary for the seat, which Thurmond won. Late Tuesday, Hundley offered congratulations to Thurmond, adding, “It’s been an honor to be supported by so many people.”

Thurmond is expected to face Tinkler, a lawyer and former Charleston City Councilman, on Nov. 6. However, separate legal actions pending in federal court and the S.C. Supreme Court still could reshape the race.

On Oct. 16, three federal judges will consider a lawsuit challenging whether the U.S. Justice Department should have reviewed and approved the special District 41 Republican primary. The S.C. Supreme Court also is considering appeals in a separate but related case.

Thurmond, a lawyer, said he personally is involved in those court fights but hopes they all will be over at least two weeks before the election. “I wouldn’t want to look past the legal challenges, because if they’re successful, there is no campaign,” he said.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.