KINGSTREE — After an up-and-down election night, state Sen. Yancey McGill and challenger Cezar McKnight will at last get final word this coming week as to the winner of the Democratic primary for Senate District 32.
Chris Whitmire, spokesman for the South Carolina Election Commission, confirmed Friday that the agency ordered a recount in the race.
McGill and McKnight were featured in one of Tuesday’s closest races, separated by only 82 votes by the end of the night. The district includes parts of southwest Horry County (where McGill won handily) and much of western Georgetown County (where McGill also won by a solid margin).
But in a race that looked as those it could be a runaway victory for McKnight in the early goings, the challenger took 1,642 votes more than McGill in Williamsburg County. The incumbent McGill managed to win the majority of voters from the rest of the representative counties, as he made up ground in Berkeley, Georgetown, Horry and Florence counties en route to posting 50.32 percent of the overall cast ballots in the race.
McGill said before the election that he felt very confident heading into the election but he did say that the race was one of the more racially divisive that he had seen in his time in office.
Although the race may have been tighter than some had expected, McKnight said he always expected to do well come election night, and until the recount was completed, he would not concede.
“We’re just waiting to see,” McKnight said. “I felt really good about the race and I felt we did better in Williamsburg County than we expected.”
The final unofficial totals showed McGill with 6,375 votes and McKnight with 6,294 votes. With the separation between the two candidates so close, an automatic recount was triggered, forced the two candidates to wait longer for the official word.
Both candidates campaigned on the issues of education and economic development as top priorities for the district.
McGill had an obvious financial advantage during the campaign race, raising over $193,000 to McKnight’s fractional amount of just under $23,000.
McKnight said he felt the reason the election was decided by such a close margin was not only because of his campaign message, but by what he perceived to be a sea change in the minds of many Williamsburg County voters.
“People don’t like his support for Nikki Haley’s agenda or his failure to bring jobs to our area,” McKnight said. “Yancey comes to the district and says one thing and then goes to Columbia and does another. People here have just had enough.”
McGill, one of the highest-ranking Democrats in the S.C. Senate, holds a number of important posts around the state and region. He is currently the chairman of the Northeast Economic Strategic Alliance, a regional economic development organization. McGill said he expected announcements in the very near future regarding five new industries and 500 new jobs for the district before Thanksgiving.
The winner of the Democratic primary will almost surely be the heavily Democratic district’s next senator. There was no Republican primary.