Ralph Norman at a polling place in Rock Hill, S.C., on June 20, 2017. Chuck Burton—AP
Jun 20, 2017
(COLUMBIA, S.C.) — Republican Ralph Norman won a special election Tuesday to fill the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, who resigned to be the White House budget director.
The race has garnered far less national attention than another special election in Georgia's 6th District, the most expensive U.S. House contest to date. That race is seen as an early test for the GOP and President Donald Trump since his win over Democrat Hillary Clinton.
South Carolina's 5th District has been held solidly by Mulvaney since his 2010 victory. There, the GOP ticket defeated Clinton by more than 18 percentage points in November, giving Republicans the confidence they say will keep the seat in their party's hands.
Norman, a millionaire real estate developer, ran against Democrat Archie Parnell for Mulvaney's seat. National surrogates stumped for both. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint campaigned with Norman, while national Democratic Chairman Tom Perez came to town for Parnell.
Democrats had held the South Carolina seat for more than a century until Mulvaney rode a tea party wave to defeat longtime incumbent John Spratt in 2010.
As they have in other special election contests across the country this year, Democrats recruited a field of candidates to make a play for the GOP-held seat. Norman emerged from a GOP runoff with only a 200-vote victory, a slim margin on which Democrats had hoped to capitalize.
But the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee plunked only $275,000 into the South Carolina race, compared with a $5 million investment in the special election in Georgia's 6th District.
Norman, a former state lawmaker who aligns himself with Trump, said during a recent candidate forum that the November presidential election results would work in his favor in his own race.
"Trump is still very popular in our area," Norman said. "His first big decision in putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court excited the people we're coming into contact with. He proved his mettle."
David L. O'Neal, a retired Army officer and paratrooper from Tega Cay, backed Norman in the primary and said the Republican earned his general election vote in part because of his stance on veterans' issues.
"As a retired military officer, I feel Ralph is strongest on military issues, wanting a strong defense," O'Neal said Tuesday. "And I know he is 100 percent with the veterans on their issues."