BY RUDOLPH BELL
Source: The Greenville News
June 29, 2016
The Conservation Voters of South Carolina said it knocked on 21,100 doors, made 7,500 phone calls, dropped 120,000 pieces of mail and spent more than $90,000 trying to unseat state Sen. Lee Bright, who scored the lowest of any senator on its legislative scorecard.
Bright was also subjected to a seemingly endless barrage of attack ads on Greenville’s two conservative talk radio stations – courtesy of the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce, whose objections to Bright included his votes against tort reform, road-funding plans and aid to flood-stricken farmers.
It all proved too much Tuesday for the two-term Republican senator, who lost his second primary runoff battle with Spartanburg attorney Scott Talley.
With all precincts in Tuesday night, Talley had captured 299 more votes than Bright to win with 51.5 percent, according to the State Election Commission.
The victory means Talley will almost certainly be District 12’s next senator since no one else filed to run in November’s general election.
Talley, a former member of the S.C. House, attributed his win to “a lot of hard work and I think just the desire among the people in Senate District 12 to give somebody else a chance and see if we can get a seat at the table in Columbia on issues that matter to the Upstate.”
Bright said his opponents were “able to define me with enough money, and we did fight back, but it was just an onslaught we could never overcome.”
He also said he thinks voters trusted Gov. Nikki Haley more than he and that his campaign saw a shift in the polls after Haley endorsed Talley.
Bright said he doesn’t plan to run for office again — at least not for many years.
“I feel like as a family we’ve sacrificed enough,” he said, “and maybe it’s somebody else’s turn.”
Greenville County voters accounted for 41 percent of Tuesday’s vote, and 53 percent of them backed Talley.
Of the 299 votes that gave Talley the victory, 237 came from Greenville County and 62 from Spartanburg County.
Bright, a divisive figure beloved by his supporters and loathed by his critics, stirred controversy regularly since he was first elected in 2008.
He once proposed the idea that South Carolina should have its own currency.
Earlier this year, he created a firestorm by proposing that transgender people be required to use public bathrooms correlating to their genders at birth instead of the genders they currently identify with. His proposal came amid a national controversy over the same issue in North Carolina.
Bright voted to keep the Confederate flag flying on the Statehouse grounds and was expected to draw strong support from voters who share his view on that issue.
He was one of four state senators that Haley campaigned against this election cycle.
Traveling to his district to endorse Talley, Haley told reporters that her biggest beef with Bright was his opposition to ethics reform, a favorite issue of the governor.
Bright ended up voting for the latest version of ethics reform, which does not require third-party groups trying to elect or defeat candidates to disclose their donors.
Bright countered Haley’s endorsement of Talley with a press conference of his own, appearing in front of the television cameras with two other Republican state senators and three House members who backed him.
Also praising Bright at the press conference were two others who knocked out House incumbents from Spartanburg County in the June 14 Republican primary.
Among those opposing Bright was Spartanburg businessman Rick Beltram, a former chairman of the Spartanburg County Republican Party who ran his own ads attacking Bright on conservative talk radio.
It was the second time that Talley and Bright battled in a runoff.
Talley ran for the Senate 12 seat in 2008 and garnered 606 more votes than Bright in a three-way primary contest.
Talley, however, fell short of a majority and ultimately lost a runoff with Bright by 198 votes.
Tuesday night, the Conservation Voters of South Carolina and the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce relished their victory in news releases.
“Voters came to the polls today and stood up for the air, land, and water they love,” said Ann Timberlake, executive director of the conservation group.
Ted Pitts, president of the state Chamber, said, “The results are clear, the majority of the people two weeks ago and again tonight wanted new conservative leadership in Columbia. The business community looks forward to working with Senator Scott Talley.”