Senator Thomas faces major primary challenge

Greenville County Republican Senator David Thomas is one of the longest-serving GOP legislators from the Upstate, having been elected to the Senate in 1984. While he's lost bids for higher offices (Lt. Governor in 2002 and Congress in 2010) he has long counted on a safe political backyard.

This year could be different as a large field of Republican primary challengers threatens Thomas' hold on the seat, following a distant fourth-place finish in the 2010 GOP primary for the Fourth Congressional district.

Jim Lee, who also ran for the Fourth District seat, announced his plans to seek the Senate seat last fall. Also in the race is Mauldin attorney Chad Groover, a fomer federal and state prosecutor, and Ross Turner, a Greenville insurance company President who also serves on the Upstate Judicial Merit Selection Committee. Joe Swann, a retired business executive and Clemson University trustee is expected to enter the race.

Thomas' poor showing in the 2010 Congressional race is a sign of potential weakness, suggesting low name recognition in his district. Thomas finished just third place out of five candidates with eighteen percent of the votes cast from his Senate district's precincts, coming in just ahead of Lee.

  • Trey Gowdy      3693 votes - 27.20%
  • Bob Inglis          4561 votes - 33.60%
  • Christina Jeffries   905 votes -  6.70%
  • David Thomas   2462 votes - 18.10%
  • Jim Lee             1970 votes - 14.50%

While several Senators have been toppled in re-election contests in recent years, those who've fallen have been low-seniority legislators, in contrast to the House, where several high-ranking legislators have either lost their seats or had close calls. As Thomas chairs the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee, taking him down will be no small feat - but considering the large field of challengers and his weak 2010 showing, Thomas has his work cut out for him if he wants another term in Columbia.

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