Thigpen, Walker earn runoff in Senate Democratic primary

South Carolina state Rep. Ivory Thigpen won the most votes over two well-known contenders in the District 22 state Senate Democratic primary Tuesday, but by a very slight margin.

Democratic voters looked to replace state Sen. Mia McLeod, who did not seek reelection, from three contenders: Thigpen, first elected in 2016 to the House; Richland School District Two board member Monica Elkins; and Richland County Council member Overture Walker.

As of 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Thigpen led the race with 42.89% of votes, with 100% of precincts reporting. Walker received 40.34% of the vote and Elkins had received 16.77%.

Because no one gained more than 50% of the vote, Thigpen and Walker will compete in a runoff election on June 25. The winning candidate will face off with Workers Party candidate Gary Votour in November during the general election. Republican Lee Blatt withdrew from the race.

Whoever wins in November will receive a four-year term in the state Senate, which pays $10,400 a year plus a $1,000 a month district stipend.

Senate District 22 is in northeast Richland County.

Ivory Thigpen

A chiropractor and pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church, Thigpen was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives in 2016, serving District 79. He currently serves on the House Judiciary and Rules committees, and is chairman for the Legislative Black Caucus.

Thigpen told the State that before deciding to enter the Senate race, he spoke with McLeod and Elkins, separately, for hours.

“We need someone who will be bold in making courageous decisions, who will talk about common sense legislation, who will provide leadership not simply through the words they say, but the actions that they take,” Thigpen said.

Ivory Thigpen
Ivory Thigpen

Overture Walker

Walker, a small business owner and former municipal judge, was elected to the Richland County Council in 2020. While on the council, he served as chair for two years.

Walker was the Democratic nominee for County Council against Forward Party candidate Jim Andreen in November. But if he wins the senate primary, Walker has vowed to immediately withdraw as the Democratic County Council nominee “to allow ample time for the voters to choose my successor.”

Walker told The State that he only considered the senate seat “after learning that my Senator, Mia McLeod (whom I have long supported), announced she would not seek reelection.” And he added that should he win the senate nomination, he would withdraw immediately as the Democratic County Council nominee “to allow ample time for the voters to choose my successor.”

Overture Walker
Overture Walker

Monica Elkins

A former teacher and elementary school principal, Elkins is well-known figure among the public education community in Richland County. Following her time as a school administrator, she was elected to the Richland Two school board in 2012.

Although well-regarded, Elkins was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct after shoving McLeod’s sister after a school board meeting in 2019. She underwent a diversion program for first-time offenders rather than face a trial.

Since that time, Elkins told The State that she “will not entertain any discussion or distractions” that don’t align with “what God has in store for my future.”

Monica Elkins
Monica Elkins