Rankin Wins Runoff

Luke Rankin, pictured with his wife and daughter, won the S.C. state senate District 33 runoff against John Gallman Tuesday night. Photo by Janet Morgan.

Incumbent Luke Rankin, R-Myrtle Beach, was re-elected as South Carolina’s District 33 state senator Tuesday night after what he called a "torturous and unprecedented" campaign.   

With no Democrats running, Rankin's win in the Republican runoff means he'll return to the statehouse for another term.

He gave thanks for the support of his family and friends as he spoke to a cheering crowd gathered at 44 and King, giving out high-fives and hugs to everyone around as if throwing candy during a parade.

“This is the largest margin of victory I’ve ever had in an election,” said Rankin, who's served in the position since 1993.

He took in 6,222 votes (58.4%) to challenger John Gallman's 4,430 (41.6%) with all precincts reporting.

"This is a message of Horry County rejecting deceit, anger and darkness," Rankin said. "Horry County has a lot to be proud of. Horry County is a place people love to call home. So the lies, the deception and the dark anger was wholesomely and overwhelmingly rejected.

"It's a message of hope. This county is growing. People want to be here."

Gallman's campaign did not immediately provide a statement.                                                      

Rankin ran on his record of getting roads built and said he wanted to find a way to fund the Busbee Bypass.

Gallman ran a campaign attacking Rankin for not being pro-life enough, for supporting a gas tax increase that’s helping to pay for road work throughout the state and for Rankin’s role in legislation that helped investor-owned utilities like SCE&G raise rates to fund projects like the V.C. Summer nuclear expansion, in which state-owned Santee Cooper was a stakeholder.

But the issues of roads and Santee Cooper's nuclear project took a backseat to more mainstream political topics like immigration, voter I.D., abortion and the Second Amendment in the political ads attacking Rankin that took over the airwaves when it became clear that the two were headed for a runoff following the primary. 

Radio and television spots criticizing Rankin accused him of being liberal and voting with Democrats, while Rankin struck back saying the pro-Gallman spots were lying about his record, and touted support from both of South Carolina’s Republican U.S. senators, Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.

"The folks of Horry County are smart, and they can see through a lie that is told over and over and over," Rankin said. "That you keep telling it does not make it any more true. And the beauty of this county's legacy, it is the Independent Republic of Horry. The overwhelming majority of people here, they're independent of out-of-state interests trying to tell them what to do with their elections." 

Rankin's campaign estimated at least $1,250,000 was spent on ads attacking him, and Rankin compared his plight to that of the Israelites' battle against the Moabites and Ammonites described in 2 Chronicles in the Bible. 

"To the Israelites, the Spirit of the Lord came," Rankin told the crowd. "He said, ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the battle is not yours, but God’s.’ And the same thing happened here. That Spirit came here.” 

Last week, reporting from MyHorryNews and The Sun News shed light on the physical and emotional abuse allegations from Gallman's ex-wife and daughter contained in Gallman’s divorce and custody court records, as well as a judge's decision to give sole custody of Gallman's two children to his ex-wife.

Judge Jan Bromell-Holmes, displeased with some of Gallman’s behavior during the custody battle, issued a temporary order in October of 2019 giving sole custody of his children to his ex-wife, now known as Sarah Price, and ordered Gallman to have no contact with them. 

After the stories came out, several women mentioned in the court records spoke out against Gallman at a Friday press conference, and and later that day, local leaders lined up to offer Rankin their endorsements. 

Rankin on Tuesday finished 16 points ahead of Gallman. It was a much larger margin of victory than the primary, in which Rankin got just 39% of the vote, Gallman got 35% and Carter Smith got 26%.

He attributed the wide margin to "a constellation of people, their voices, their messages being heard; from the volunteers working in the field to the women who stood up and said ‘We believe her,’ to a record of accomplishment versus a record of destruction.

"Folks, I believe, made the decision based on that. I’ve never had a landslide, but I think this counts."

Looking forward, Rankin said he's ready to work with the local delegation to find funding for the Busbee Bypass, to work with the state legislature to bring tourists back to South Carolina, and to help decide how to spend the $1.9 billion in federal aid from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

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