Republican Stewart Jones, as expected, won the special election in S.C. House District 14 and will succeed Mike Pitts, who served the district from 2012 until his retirement early this year.
Most of District 14 is in northern and western Laurens County. Unofficially, Jones received 1,932 votes to McDaniel’s 1,490, or, in terms of percentage, 56.41 to 43.50 percent.
Jones vowed to remain true to his north star of conservatism.
“My message is just like our founders,” Jones said. “Government at best is a necessary evil, and at worst, it’s intolerable. I will apply the same principles I applied on County Council. That means increasing transparency. We need greater accountability with our roads. Better schools that allow more choice. Limited government is efficient government.
“Government says it needs more money, more resources. Everybody needs more money, more resources. … I think, in a way, government has forgotten those principles. … Government spends money in some ways that I don’t agree with at all. If you make government more transparent, the vast majority of the population sees it, and then it pressures the state legislators to do the right thing.”
In a district of 20,271 registered voters, 3,444 cast ballots. Three were write-ins. The turnout was 16.99 percent.
Both candidates are members of Laurens County Council. McDaniel will remain. The next special election will be to succeed Jones, likely in late summer.
The race shifted from McDaniel to Jones as the votes coming in went from urban to suburban and rural. The Democrat won 126-27 in Laurens 1 and 156-15 in Laurens 4. GOP votes rolled in from Hickory Tavern, where Jones won by a 223-36 margin, and also in Maddens (156-70), Jones (19-2), Martins-Poplar Springs (49-11) and Greenpond (146-27).
Jones won Laurens 3, 5 and 6, but McDaniel won rural votes in Cross Hill and Waterloo.
The candidates met with their supporters afterward on opposite sides of the Laurens Square, with the victorious at Roma’s and the vanquished at the Witherspoon Building.
The electoral dynamics will change in 2020, when Jones will presumably be running in a general election. When asked if he might consider running again, McDaniel was a bit taken aback, amid the disappointment of defeat, that the question was posed.
“I don’t have any aspiration right now, but I haven’t ruled it out,” he said. “I haven’t really thought about it, to tell the truth.
“I have no regrets. I think we have a good message and that it has some resonance with the people.”
Speaking in behalf of the Laurens County Republican Party, chair Brenda Stewart said, “We are very excited about Stewart’s victory. The Democratic Party gave their best effort, even recruiting support from the national level, and they were still unable to flip this seat. This shows that, even with a well-organized campaign, the values of the Democratic Party are not consistent with the conservative values of Laurens County voters. We believe Stewart will be an excellent representative of those values in Columbia, and the voters have affirmed that this evening.”
Originally appeared in GoLaurens.com