SC Freedom Caucus appears to make gains; and other takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries

Tuesday’s primary elections are in the books as the major parties picked their nominees.

In State House elections we saw how conservative the General Assembly could get and whether fights against abortion bans hurt certain Republicans.

Here are six takeaways from Tuesday’s primaries.

How did the Freedom Caucus vs. GOP caucus battle turnout?

In what has been brewing for two years, the battle between the state House GOP Caucus and the Freedom Caucus played out in 32 districts. And Freedom Caucus appeared to have had the better night.

The Freedom Caucus ousted state Rep. Jay West, R-Anderson, who serves as the assistant majority leader. West lost to Freedom Caucus aligned candidate Lee Gilreath in the Upstate House District 7. State Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Oconee, appears to have narrowly lost to Adam Duncan in the Upstate House District 2. Sandifer serves as the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee chairman and has served in the House since 1995.

In House District 34, which is currently represented by state Rep. Roger Nutt, R-Spartanburg, who chose to run for state Senate, Freedom Caucus aligned candidate Sarita Edgerton finished first in the primary with 40.43% of the vote. GOP aligned candidate Joanne LaBounty was in second place with 33.76% of the vote.

The ranks of the current sister senators take a hit

The South Carolina sister senators took a few hits Tuesday. The Senate has six female senators, five of whom were members of the chamber in the spring 2023 and banded together to filibuster against the state’s fetal heartbeat abortion ban.

The group already was slated to lose a member when state Sen. Mia McLeod, a Richland County independent, opted not to run for reelection.

First-term state Sen. Penry Gustafson, R-Kershaw, was blown out in the Republican primary in District 27. Allen Blackmon received 6,095 votes. Gustafson received 1,331 votes.

State Sen. Sandy Senn, R-Charleston, was in a close race with state Rep. Matt Leber in Senate District 41. Leber finished with 31 more votes than Senn as the race is headed for a recount.

State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington finished first in her primary, but did not receive a big enough share of the vote to clinch the nomination. Shealy, who received 40.02% of the vote, will face Carlisle Kennedy in a runoff. Kennedy finished with 36.22%. Zoe Warren finished in third placed with 23.75% of the vote.

How did Trump endorsed candidates do in Congressional races?

Former President Donald Trump endorsed in four Republican primary congressional races. All four of his endorsed candidates finished first in their primaries including three who outright won their races.

U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson in the 2nd Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace in the 1st Congressional District defeated their GOP challengers and now head into the general election.

In the 4th Congressional District with 97% of the vote counted, U.S. Rep. William Timmons, who was endorsed by Trump, defeated state Rep. Adam Morgan, R-Greenville, who serves as the state House Freedom Caucus chairman.

Mark Burns who was endorsed by Trump in the 3rd Congressional District will go into a runoff against Sheri Biggs for the GOP nomination to replace U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Laurens.

Bauer and Finlay get their rematch

State Rep. Heather Bauer, D-Richland, will have to beat former state Rep. Kirkman Finlay again if she wants to keep her seat for another two-year term in House District 75. Finlay, a Richland County Republican, served in the state House for five terms before being upset by Bauer in 2022 by 235 votes in one of the few toss up districts in the state.

Bauer centered her campaign solely around abortion access, and was the lone bright spot for South Carolina Democrats in 2022 in what was a rough election year for the party in the minority.

Finlay received more than 65% of the vote in Tuesday’s Republican primary and defeated Tracy Robins.

Others former lawmakers tried to return

Other former lawmakers are looking to comeback. Former state Rep. Jerry Govan, who was redistricted into a seat with state Rep. Russell Ott, D-Calhoun, finished first in his House District 93 Democratic primary and will head to a runoff against Johnny Felder .

Former state Sen. Lee Bright advanced to a Republican runoff in Senate District 12 to replace current state Sen. Scott Talley, R-Spartanburg who chose not to run for reelection. With all precinct reporting, state Rep. Roger Nutt, R-Spartanburg, led Hope Blackley by 137 votes for second place.

Former state Rep. Vic Dabney lost his Republican primary bid in House District 45 against state Rep. Brandon Newton, R-Lancaster, who serves a House whip.

Walker’s late start didn’t hurt

Getting into the race late didn’t hinder Richland County Council member Overture Walker. Walker entered District 22 Senate race on the last day of filing and quickly raised nearly $116,000 through May 22. Walker finished in second place in the primary and advances to a Democratic runoff against state Rep. Ivory Thigpen, D-Richland, who raised $49,000 through May 22.

Richland 2 school board member Monica Elkins finished third.

Walker and Thigpen are vying to succeed state Sen. Mia McLeod, a Richland County independent, who chose not to run for reelection.