MYRTLE BEACH — The Associated Press declared Republican Tom Rice the winner in the 7th District congressional race at 11 p.m., but Democrat Gloria Tinubu still had some fight left.
Tinubu at first said she wasn’t conceding the race and wanted to see the full vote before she gave up the ghost. She changed her mind in about a half hour, giving up hope she could win.
"I’ve been told this is not over until all the votes are counted," Tinubu told her supporters when she still had fight in her. "Based on what we’ve seen, we’re not clear whether all the counties have counted my votes."
The Associated Press said that with 78 percent of the votes counted, Rice held a 55 percent to 45 percent lead over Tinubu. The difference was 18,000 votes, the AP reported, most if not all of which likely came from Rice’s overwhelming victory over Tinubu in Horry County.
Rice raked in more than 65,000 votes in Horry County, 64 percent of all cast, nearly 30,000 more than Tinubu.
Horry County, with more than 170,000 registered voters, almost can dictate any political race in the eight-county 7th District. It has more than 87,000 more registered voters than Florence County, which has the second highest number of registered voters in the district. Horry has 5,000 more registered voters than the remaining six counties combined.
As votes were tallied, both Tinubu and Rice circulated among their supporters when they arrived at their respective Horry County gathering points.
Rice’s supporters at one point were packed into Longbeards Bar and Grill in Carolina Forest like teenagers at the old Pavilion. They were noisy, too, so loud that cell phone conversations had to be done outside in the cold.
Tinubu’s supporters gathered at Conway’s Kingston Grille, where they munched on snacks and listened to music from a DJ while she nervousl;y watched as votes were reported.
Rice’s crowd had thinned and quieted noticeably as the hour got later.
“It’s 9:30,” Rice explained. “They’re working tomorrow. They’re Republicans.”
Stella Mercado, among the crowd at Longbeards, speculated that those who left were either tired or wimping out. She said she was pregnant, and that gave her a good excuse as she said good-bye to Rice.
“Besides,” she said of the early leavers, “they know he’s got it in the bag.”
Shipp said that if Tinubu wins, the first things she will do when she gets to Washington will be to get an office, prepare for the inauguration and then go to work for the people of the 7th District.
Rice said the first thing he will do is to contact the Northeastern Strategic Alliance, an economic development group in northeastern part of S.C. Hopefully, he said, he and the alliance can coordinate their efforts to bring jobs to the district.
As bad as the unemployment rate is in Horry and Georgetown counties, Rice said, it’s much worse in the inland counties of the district.
“I’ll be the only person who represents these eight counties,” he said.
Tinubu spoke to her supporters just before 11 p.m. Tuesday to thank everyone for their support.
At 11:15 p.m., the music was still blaring and the room erupted in cheers when media outlets began calling the presidential race for Barack Obama.
Contact STEVE JONES at 444-1765. Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301