Republican Stewart Jones won Tuesday night’s special election for the State House District 14 seat, defeating fellow Laurens County Councilman Garrett McDaniel for the vacant seat.
Jones finished with 56.4 percent of the vote in Laurens County and easily took four Greenwood precincts with 226 votes, compared to 82 for McDaniel.
In Laurens County, Jones garnered 1,932 votes and McDaniel finished with 1,490 (43.5 percent).
Jones said he expects to be sworn into office before the end of the legislative session and cast some votes on key issues as the State House debates education reform and other key issues.
“Education is a really big issue. Roads continue to be an issue,” Jones said. “I want to take some of the things I’ve learned here in Laurens on county council and apply them at the state level – transparency and accountability.”
As the early results came in, McDaniel took an early lead after the absentee votes were counted along with precincts inside the City of Laurens.
Laurens 1 and Laurens 4 gave McDaniel an early cushion, but it wasn’t enough to overcome the GOP votes in the largely rural areas of the county.
Garrett won Laurens 1 with 126 votes to 17 for Jones. In Laurens 4, McDaniel won 156-15.
“I have no regrets. I think we sent a message with the amount of support that we had that people aren’t necessarily going to put up with the same old thing in Columbia,” McDaniel said. “I wish Mr. Jones the best of luck. I hope he works hard and doesn’t forget the people of Laurens County.”
Later in the evening, the tide shifted toward Jones with precincts from Green Pond and Hickory Tavern coming with large GOP numbers. Jones carried Green Pond 146-27 and Hickory Tavern 223-36.
Results from Tuesday night’s special election are unofficial until it is certified this week. After that, Jones will tender his resignation from county council and plans for another special election to fill Jones’ District 4 seat will get under way.
Election officials expect primary elections for the seat to be held sometime in July and the special election to follow in early August.
Jones said he is confident that he is ready to fill his new role in the State House as he prepares to replace former Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens), who was elected to nine consecutive terms in the House of Representatives. Pitts resigned in January citing health concerns following a heart attack.
“I feel like I’m a little bit ahead of the curve because of my experience on county council,” Jones said.
Jones also thanked McDaniel for running a clean race focusing on an issue-based campaign.
“It was a very clean race, and I appreciate Garrett very much,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed working with Garrett on council, and I’m going to work with him in a different capacity now.”
Upon announcing his candidacy, McDaniel said he believed a Democrat could win in a largely Republican district. He said he still believes so following Tuesday’s results.
“Ever since the beginning, people have like, ‘Why are you doing this? You can’t win in this Republican district,’” McDaniel said. “But I remembered something Rep. Jim Clyburn told me about a turtle. He said, the turtle has a hard shell, and he can pull himself inside and be protected; he has a home at all times, but he never gets anywhere unless he sticks his neck out.”