COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - For the first time in 30 years, a South Carolina Democrat will hold a state senate seat previously held by Republicans for more than three decades.
On Tuesday night, Columbia attorney Dick Harpootlian defeated Republican Benjamin Dunn 52 percent to 48 percent in the Senate District 20 race after a delay in counting absentee ballots in Richland County kept the race from being called until well after midnight.
“I’m going to go over to the Richland County Election Commission and tell them to do their friggin’ job,” Harpootlian told supporters who had gathered at his watch party Tuesday night.
Shortly after midnight, the Associated Press declared Harpootlian the winner after around 7,000 absentee ballots in Richland County had been counted.
The victory makes Harpootlian the first Democrat since 2000 to take a Republican state Senate seat. The district seat was held by former Republican Senator John Courson, who resigned in the spring after pleading guilty to corruption charges. He had held the seat since 1985.
“What I want to do is make sure state government remembers that all government is local,” Harpootlian said. “Painting this big brush programs isn’t going to help anyone if the people don’t get the benefit of it.”
Throughout his campaign, he said the common theme he heard from constituents was their “desire for government to work.” In favor of term limits, he said he plans to waste no time getting work done while in the State House.
“If there’s a valuable bill sitting in the committee and the committee chairman won’t have hearing on it because that’s the way he or she wants to kill it…we’re going to have public statements on it,” he said. “Apparently that’s not protocol in the senate, everyone does things on a very civil, understated way…that’s not my style!”
The state’s education system, the failed V.C. Summer project, and crumbling infrastructure remain at the top of Harpootlian’s to-do list.
“The only thing I won’t tolerate is folks who are more concerned about the next election than the next generation,” he said. “If we’re going to have that fight, we’re going to have it, and we’re going to have it soon.”
Following the June primary, many political experts predicted the district to be one to watch for a potential flip in power.
On Tuesday night, Benjamin Dunn said he was optimistic with the numbers he was seeing and was waiting for all absentee ballots to be counted. Multiple attempts to reach Dunn on Wednesday were not returned.