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Conservative beats centrist in GOP congressional primary

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Conservative Ralph Norman has beaten the more centrist, establishment candidate for the Republican nomination for an open U.S. House seat in South Carolina and now faces the task of keeping the seat in GOP hands.

The State Election Commission certified the results of this week’s runoff election after a recount Friday. Not a single vote changed from Tuesday’s count. Norman finished with a 221-vote win out of more than 35,000 ballots cast.

Norman defeated Tommy Pope, the second-ranking Republican in the state House and a prosecutor who received national fame for prosecuting child killer Susan Smith nearly 23 years ago.

Pope conceded defeat in a statement issued shortly after the recount ended.

Norman moves on to face Democrat and former tax adviser Archie Parnell and several third-party candidates on June 20.

Norman’s win leaves Democrats a little more hopeful they can flip the district. Norman, who resigned from his state House seat to run for Congress this year, has voted against a significant, bipartisan majority on several bills including one that would allow police officers to be eligible for workers compensation if they suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Norman also heavily embraced President Donald Trump.

Parnell is a former staff attorney for the House Ways & Means Committee and the Department of Justice who has said his top priorities are tax reform and job creation.

Norman’s strong showing over the more mainstream Republican Pope was a mild surprise. Norman’s campaign surged with support from conservatives like U.S. Sen Ted Cruz and prominent former elected officials in South Carolina, including ex-Gov. Nikki Haley and Jim DeMint, the former senator and recently departed chief at The Heritage Foundation.

Democrats almost always have an uphill climb in South Carolina elections. Six of the state’s seven U.S. House districts are in Republican control, and a Democrat has not won a congressional race in South Carolina outside the state’s one majority African-American district since 2008.

And Pope appears ready to back his party’s nominee.

“I felt it was important to see this through to the end for the sake of the Pope team members and all the citizens that have supported us,” Pope said in a statement. “With the vote count confirmed, I congratulate Mr. Norman and wish him well in the upcoming election.”

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