ROCK HILL, S.C. (ROCK HILL HERALD) - The crowd of about 200 supporters chanted “Ralphie! Ralphie!” as U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman walked down the aisle shortly after 10 p.m. at the Magnolia Room in Rock Hill, pumping his fist in the air. He had just won reelection in South Carolina’s 5th District against Democratic challenger Moe Brown, according to the Associated Press.
Norman, who’s held the seat since 2017, walked onto the stage, flanked by two television screens broadcasting Fox News. Behind him, his grandchildren took up the entire stage.
Supporters in the crowd, most sporting President Donald Trump attire, continued to stand and chant. Victory music blared from speakers.
“Is this a great win or what?” Norman said to the crowd.
His supporters' cheers grew louder.
“Guys, it looks like we’re going to have a good night all across this country now,” Norman continued, as result came in, with several states still too close to call. “It looks like a great night for President Trump. That little jig I did, that’s what Trump’s doing right now.”
The crowd stood up and cheered.
Norman thanked his supporters, many of whom were his friends and family, campaign team and volunteers, who worked to secure his reelection. He then listed off the conservative ideals he stands by.
“I believe in the right to bear arms,” he told the crowd, having to pause for several seconds as the crowd cheered. “I believe that marriage is between one woman and one man. I believe that life is a gift from God and abortion is wrong.”
With about 63% of the state’s precincts completely reported, Norman leads with 60% of the vote to Brown’s 40%, as of 11:30 p.m.
Among the crowd were Norman’s closest friends and family, including 81-year-old Richard Tucker, from Lake Wylie. He could be spotted from any point in the room, sporting a custom-made “Trump 2020” jean jacket and a white cowboy hat. He had a white ruffled shirt under the jacket, embroidered with a giant elephant and “Make America Great Again” on the back.
“You’re fortunate in life to run into the right people that really help life work for together people,” Tucker said. “And that’s what Ralph is all about.”
At few feet away, Tom Balek, also from Lake Wylie, wore a cardboard cutout of Trump’s head, while watching results come in. He told The Herald he’s known Norman for years and has had the Republican over to his house several times.
“Ralph is one of the last good guys in D.C.,” Balek said from behind the mask.
‘THEY WANT FREEDOM’
A few minutes before Norman’s race was called before 10 p.m., the Associated Press declared U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham the winner over Democratic challenger Jaime Harrison, and Norman felt relief from that win, too.
“There’s something going on in this country,” he told reporters after his speech. “There’s a patriotism. There’s a feeling that they want to get back to normal. They want freedom. They don’t want government ruling their lives.”
Norman, who was not wearing mask, told reporters that now that he’s reelected he plans to focus on establishing a “patient-centered healthcare plan,” improving social security and immigration control.
Norman’s opponent, although a first-time candidate, did establish legitimacy in the race, having landed key Democratic endorsements from U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn and former presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg. Brown, a former University of South Carolina wide receiver, also worked under then-Gov. Nikki Haley at the state Commerce Department.
“It’s not easy running for office,” Norman said of Brown. “He’s got all the qualities. I think we’ll probably hear again from him. He’s a good football player.”
BROWN’S OPTIMISM AT FORT MILL WATCH PARTY DROPS AFTER JAIME HARRISON LOSS
A few miles northbound on I-77 at Kingsley Town Center on Tuesday night, there was Brown.
The moderate Democratic candidate was all smiles when he arrived at the Carolina Ale House in Fort Mill on Tuesday night. He worked the crowd like a talented politician: He gave hugs to friends and his campaign team. He posed with his mother for a photo op in front of his “Moe Brown For Congress” sign, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
He even offered local media two smiley interviews before his race was called — both of which oozed optimism for a win; exuded fulfillment in the competence of his team’s campaign; and demonstrated a unique faith that the South Carolina electorate would prove on Tuesday night that it wasn’t as politically monolithic as the rest of the country seemed to think it was.
“Time after time, when you meet people where they are, they’re willing to talk,” Brown told reporters around 8:30 p.m. “And South Carolinians as a whole typically are pragmatic, and we don’t get enough credit for that. And I think what you see is when they feel like they can trust you, and that you can stand your ground and be principled about your convention — they can respect that. And I believe that about all South Carolinians for the most part.”
His optimism was further boosted when rumors spread that Fairfield County — one of the state’s Democratic strongholds — had a higher turnout than in 2016, and it didn’t wane when Trump was projected by the Associated Press to win South Carolina around 8:30 p.m.
But at 10 p.m., Brown’s faced dropped.
He was taking pictures with his family outside, and he looked at the television and saw that Graham handily defeated up-and-coming Harrison. Without taking his eyes off the national TV news, which was reporting more and more Trump victories, he told his campaign manager: “I’m not even worried about me,” he said. “I’m worried about my country right now.”
Brown’s team started to devise a concession statement shortly after, and his smile of optimism turned into one of gratitude to be a part of the campaign process. When asked, he said he didn’t know if he’d run for this seat again. He said he hopes his campaign perhaps inspired Norman to consider some of the issues he was running on.
“We ran in a unique situation. We ran in a pandemic. We started late, came in January 29. A lot of folks still don’t know who I am in this district, and that’s the reality of it,” he told The Herald after he was defeated, adding, “But with what we did have, I think we ran a fantastic race.”