Election officials opted Friday not to order a runoff between the top two vote-getters in the Democratic race for South Carolina’s new 7th congressional district, although all sides acknowledged the issue would next play out in court. After 90 minutes of executive session but with no public debate, the state Election Commission voted to certify Coastal Carolina University professor Gloria Bromell Tinubu’s victory in Tuesday’s primary over Myrtle Beach attorney Preston Brittain. At issue was whether the commission would count the votes of state Rep. Ted Vick, who withdrew May 25 following an arrest for drunken driving, but remained on the ballot. Without Vick’s more than 2,300 votes, Bromell Tinubu won the four-way race outright, with 52 percent of the vote to Brittain’s 39 percent. But five names were on the ballot. Both the state Democratic Party and Brittain’s campaign had argued none of the five received a majority, thus necessitating a runoff or otherwise disenfranchising voters. The commission voted 3-2 not to count Vick’s votes.
Days after Vick withdrew, top Democrats including U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn called a news conference to endorse 32-year-old Brittain, whom state Senate Minority Leader John Land said he thought “is really going to sell in the new 7th District.” Not the choice of the party’s establishment, Bromell Tinubu, a 59-year-old former Atlanta city councilwoman, resigned her seat in the Georgia Legislature in December after moving back to her family home in Georgetown County. “We are very excited and happy that this phase is behind us and ready to look toward the general election,” Bromell Tinubu said by phone after Friday’s meeting. “We’re going to do what we’re been doing and just do it more aggressively.”
Brittain’s campaign manager John Keig said it’s disappointing the commission decided to disenfranchise voters. “We believe that the court will ultimately decide that the votes cast will be counted,” he said in a statement. “Preston looks forward for a swift resolution of this matter.” Before the commission on Friday, an attorney who represents Bromell Tinubu said state law supported his argument that any votes cast for a candidate who had withdrawn should not be counted, for the purposes of determining a runoff or otherwise.