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Republican Wes Hayes enjoyed a comfortable win Tuesday in S.C. Senate District 15, surviving political attacks from a “shadow group” and competition from tea party activist Joe Thompson.
Results gathered by The Herald showed that Hayes captured nearly 75 percent of the vote.
District 15 includes Tega Cay, Lake Wylie, sections of Rock Hill and Fort Mill.
Hayes, a Rock Hill lawyer, has served in the Legislature for 27 years. Thompson’s effort to unseat the long-time senator was the first opposition Hayes has faced since 1992.
Campaigning has changed tremendously over the past 20 years, Hayes said Tuesday after his win.
This year’s race “was a little more negative,” he said, referring to a political action committee that sent attack ads through the mail to York County voters.
On the campaign trail, Thompson criticized Hayes’ ethics reform plans and his opposition to school choice legislation that would use public money to support private school options.
Hayes fought back, saying during his first official debate with Thompson that he thinks legislators should have to declare all sources of income, including money taken from lobbyists while in office.
He also said the state needs to establish a “clearer” definition for political action committees – a frustration that hit home for Hayes during this election cycle as the senator faced political attack ads through the mail from what he called a “shadow group.”
A group called Conservative GOP PAC distributed mailers stating “Wes Hayes hit the jackpot with our tax dollars.” Hayes stopped short of accusing any specific group or person of sending the mailers but struck a stern tone at the October debate, saying, “We don’t know who they are, what they’re spending, where they’re getting their money.”
Voter and Fort Mill resident Celia Wilson, 51, said she has kept up with the ethics reform debate in South Carolina and supports Hayes for his stance.
“Wes Hayes is one of the people I would trust on ethics,” she said. “And I would defer to his judgment on that.”
Acknowledging Hayes’ win, Thompson said the fact he ran as a petition candidate probably hurt his chances of election.
With presidential candidates on the ballot, he said, “most people probably went in and pulled the straight arm (party) lever.”
Hayes said he’s ready to return to Columbia.
“I’m honored to be re-elected to represent the fifteenth district. We had a very spirited campaign.”
Coleman has good showing in race for second term in District 17
Democrat Creighton Coleman was capturing nearly two-thirds of the vote Tuesday in the Senate District 17.
Republican Bob Carrison’s campaign manager called The Herald late Tuesday night to say Carrison was conceding the election to Coleman. Still, Coleman was hesitant to claim victory just before 11 p.m. For the latest results, visit heraldonline.com.
Voters in York County held a great deal of power in this year’s race for Coleman’s seat, with 18 precincts in the county representing 50 percent of District 17’s population.
Redistricting in 2011 added parts of western York County such as York, McConnells and Sharon into S.C. Senate District 17 this year. The district also includes southern Rock Hill and all of Chester and Fairfield counties.
Coleman was first elected in 2008, succeeding fellow Democrat Linda Short, who retired after four terms in office.
Coleman, 56, a lawyer in Winnsboro, graduated from The Citadel and the University of South Carolina Law School. He’s served as a prosecutor on the Fifth and Sixth Judicial Circuits.
He’s previously served as the chair of the Fairfield County Democratic Party and on the Public Defenders Board for Chester and Fairfield counties. Coleman has served continuously in the S.C. House since 1998. He was first elected to the Senate in 2008.
His campaign spent 10 times more than Carrison’s this year, increasing the difficulty of an already uphill battle Carrison faced to win a seat, which Democrats have traditionally comfortably won.
Carrison, 63, graduated from the College of Lake County. He served on the Winnsboro Town Council in Fairfield County from 1998 to 2002.
Felder, Walters go head to head for newly-established House 26 seat
Raye Felder, a petition candidate with financial backing from the state Republican Party, was neck-and-neck with Libertarian candidate Jeremy Walters on Tuesday night.
S.C. House District 26 is a newly-established congressional district as a result of redistricting in 2011.
A win for Felder would give the House Republicans a solid hold in York County with eight of the nine local representatives aligned with the Republican Party. District 49 Representative John King is a Democrat.
S.C. Senators and Representatives receive a yearly salary of $10,400. The General Assembly reconvenes in Columbia on January 8, 2013.