COLUMBIA, S.C. — Republican Ralph Norman won a special election Tuesday to fill the South Carolina congressional seat vacated by Mick Mulvaney, battling to a victory closer than many expected to replace the new White House budget director.
“It’s a good win, and we’re excited,” Norman, a real estate developer who aligned himself with President Donald Trump, told The Associated Press. “We’re looking forward to getting to work in Washington.”
Norman, who celebrated his 64th birthday on election night, defeated Democrat Archie Parnell with 51 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of precincts reporting. Parnell had roughly 48 percent of the vote.
Three third-party candidates also ran.
Republicans hoped to extend their hold on the district, where Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in November by more than 18 percentage points. Surrogates like Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint campaigned with the former state lawmaker, who also received support during a seven-way primary and ultimate runoff from conservative groups like the Club for Growth.
Democrats took interest in the race, too, with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez campaigning with Parnell. But it was small in comparison to the party’s investment in a special election in Georgia’s 6th District, seen as an early test for the GOP and President Trump: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put only $275,000 into South Carolina’s race. That’s compared with a $5 million investment in the special election in Georgia’s 6th District.
In a statement, DCCC Chairman Ben Ray Luján congratulated Parnell on a hard-fought campaign that “made huge gains compared to past Democrats who competed here.”
Parnell’s campaign thanked supporters in a statement, saying the stood “against a rising tide of bitterness and division” and offered hope. Parnell also called Norman to congratulate him.
The Democrat put on a strong campaign, outperforming Clinton in a handful of the 11 counties that make up the 5th District, which stretches north from Columbia to the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. In Chester County, which Trump won with 51 percent, Parnell edged out Norman by more than 7 percentage points.
But Norman still performed strongly in the district’s population centers, including his vote-rich home territory of York County.
“Elections are close,” Norman said Tuesday night. “We knew it was going to be close. Archie’s a good candidate.”
Norman, a former state lawmaker, said support from the president resonated positively with voters. Trump recorded a robocall in support of Norman’s campaign and sent out Twitter messages encouraging voters to back him.
“Everybody’s had their differences with President Trump,” Norman told the AP. “He’s a polarizing president, but I think a majority of the people like what he’s doing.”
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.”