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Republican Ralph Norman Wins Close Race in South Carolina

GOP winner likely to join House Freedom Caucus

Republican Ralph Norman won the special election in South Carolina’s 5th District (Simone Pathé/CQ Roll Call)
Republican Ralph Norman won the special election in South Carolina’s 5th District (Simone Pathé/CQ Roll Call)

Republican Ralph Norman had a good birthday Tuesday night, winning the special election to fill South Carolina’s 5th District seat, albeit by a closer-than-expected margin.

Norman defeated Democrat Archie Parnell 51 percent to 48 percent, with 100 percent of precincts reporting, according to The Associated Press. 

Norman, a former state representative, replaces former Rep. Mick Mulvaney, who vacated the seat in February to become director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The incoming congressman has said he wants to join the House Freedom Caucus, of which his predecessor was a co-founder. (The caucus is invitation only.)

South Carolina’s special election never caught on the way special elections did in Kansas, Montana or especially Georgia, where voters also went to the polls Tuesday. Democrats failed to rally behind Parnell, a former Goldman Sachs adviser, in a much tougher district for the party than Georgia’s 6th District. 

President Donald Trump carried South Carolina’s 5th District by nearly 19 points last fall.

Norman has fully embraced Trump, saying in a Saturday morning interview that the president is still popular in the district. Norman praised Trump’s selection of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court and said he’d support a Trump plan for infrastructure spending. 

“He’s one of these who doesn’t give out blank checks,” Norman said.

Asked about some of Trump’s more controversial measures, such as his executive order to restrict travel from certain Muslim-majority countries, Norman said, “He’s right on that, absolutely.”

Norman went on to defend the president, whom he said has been treated unfairly by the media, especially when it comes to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 elections. 

“They’ve convicted President Trump already,” Norman said of the press.

“If you hear the criticisms, a lot of them are, ‘We don’t like the tweets.’ Well, my argument is, ‘I don’t have to read tweets.’ It’s a choice. And the media has not given him a fair shot, and so this is his way of communications,” Norman said. 

Trump’s election last year galvanized Norman to run for Congress.

“When Nov. 8 came and we didn’t have Hillary Clinton as president, I got motivated,” he said. (Practically speaking, the 5th District also would probably not have been open had Clinton won.)

Would he have run to be a check on Clinton? “I would have had to look at it. … It would have been a serious detriment,” he said. “I’m excited with Trump.”

Norman cited North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows, chairman of the Freedom Caucus, as a congressional role model. But he said he also respects House Speaker Paul D. Ryan.

“I like him. He’s in it for the right reasons,” Norman said of the Wisconsin Republican.

Tuesday’s election was the third vote in this district this year. After party primaries in May, the top-two GOP finishers advanced to a runoff two weeks later. Norman defeated state House Speaker Pro Tempore Tommy Pope by just 221 votes.

Norman will fill the seat portrayed in the hit Netflix series “House of Cards.” He just finished watching the first season.

“It’s interesting,” the congressman-elect said. 

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