Our State Senate Runoff picks: Knotts, Martin, and a Toss-up

We’ve been sitting back, doing a little traveling, watching a lot of movies, and watching the runoff races boil in the Upstate and Midlands as three Senate races – one open seat and two incumbents – have turned into all-out wars. For those of you who care what we think (but never just take our word for anything, it’d be like taking candy from strangers), here’s our Senate Run-off picks:

Knotts wins in Lexington County:

Two weeks ago, a lot of people were expecting Katrina Shealy to continue building momentum into the second round of voting in this race. Indeed, we believe that if the run-off vote had been held in the first 48 hours after the primary, Knotts would have lost.

Shealy's primary campaign seemed to run smoothly, aided by tons of outside money and a well-focused message which challenged years of Knotts' attacks on the Governor and his bull-in-the-china-shop approach to politics. However, the dynamics of the race seemed to have changed as Knotts has – at long last - begun to get some lucky breaks. The first of these was when the third-place primary candidate, who everyone expected to come out for Shealy, ended up giving a surprise endorsement to Knotts.

While Governor Sanford and Senator DeMint came out for Shealy, Knotts received the endorsement of Congressman Joe Wilson, the numero uno Republican in Lexington County politics, along with Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, whose support among the core GOP voters who will comprise much of the run-off turnout, has always been strong. We’re betting that Wilson and Bauer beat Sanford and DeMint when it comes to winning the hearts and minds of run-off voters. Especially as poorly as the Governor fared in his re-election primary in Lexington County.

The last weekend, a number of legislators who had survived knock-off attempts by the Governor’s allies were sighted walking and making calls for Knotts. No doubt they were eager to see the Governor lose his most high-profile runoff fight, right in his backyard.

In the race which will give the winning side tremendous bragging rights, we expect that Jakie Knotts will win re-election, and might just win it by more than a couple of points.

Martin trounces Ritchie in Spartanburg:

A year or so back, when Senator Jim Ritchie began testing the waters for a possible statewide candidacy, he should have considered how it would be received back home. Two strong challengers came out of the woodwork, hoping Ritchie would not be seeking re-election, and a lot of voters didn’t believe he would be sticking around for an entire term, if re-elected. So almost two-thirds of them voted for Ritchie’s challengers. So many that Ritchie finished a distant second and came within a few dozen votes of seeing Shane Martin knock him out in the first round.

This round won’t even be close. Shane Martin will win this one easily.

Whoever talked Ritchie into considering a statewide run really screwed him good.

Bright and Talley fight down to the finish line:

Lee Bright is a hell of a tough customer. Four years ago, he almost knocked out John Hawkins, the now-retiring incumbent Senator. This time around, we weren’t surprised to see him in a runoff for the open seat, finishing a close second place behind current Representative Scott Talley.

In the runoff, Bright was endorsed by the third-placer, who got a little over ten percent of the vote. While that endorsement may have given him a little nudge towards the 50% mark, we’re not sure if Sanford’s endorsement helped.

One should keep in mind that both candidates for House seats within that Senate district who were backed by Sanford and Sons – Ken Roach and Roger Nutt – lost their bids by modest margins in spite of high-dollar third party campaigns waged to help their candidacies. Spartanburg voters have been known to be tough customers who generally favor less politically-extreme Republicans than GOP voters elsewhere in the Upstate.

In any other situation, we’d say Bright has the advantage, but Talley is an aggressive campaigner who has pushed hard and even gone on the attack with some pretty hard-hitting TV spots. We believe this race will be close, with turnout and an effective ground game being the key to the outcome of this race.

By midnight, we’ll know who won and who lost. In the meantime, don’t touch that dial ...

2 Response to "Our State Senate Runoff picks: Knotts, Martin, and a Toss-up"

  1. back at lake marion mg 24/6/08 08:57
    believe tally may pull it off
  2. graham slough mg 24/6/08 22:19
    have you heard the clarendon county sheriffs race results yet

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