06/20/2017 23:32 EDT | Updated 06/21/2017 12:03 EDT

Republican aligned with Trump wins South Carolina House seat

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Republicans retained control of Mick Mulvaney's U.S. House seat, with Ralph Norman winning a special election victory that was closer than expected in South Carolina's 5th Congressional District.

The GOP had strong hopes it would hold onto the district, where President Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by more than 18 percentage points. Mulvaney rode a tea party wave to victory in the 5th District in 2010, defeating a three-decade Democratic incumbent.

Norman, a former state lawmaker who aligns himself with Trump, said support from the president resonated positively with voters. Trump recorded a robocall in support of Norman's campaign and sent out Twitter messages encouraging voters to back him.

"Everybody's had their differences with President Trump," Norman told The Associated Press on Tuesday night. "It didn't overshadow individual needs of what they wanted - business, less taxes, less government. He's a polarizing president, but I think a majority of the people like what he's doing."

Norman, a millionaire real estate developer who celebrated his 64th birthday on election night, defeated Democrat Archie Parnell with roughly 51 per cent of the vote. Parnell had roughly 48 per cent of the vote.

Three third-party candidates also waged campaigns to replace the new White House budget director in Congress.

High-level surrogates stumped on behalf of both candidates, with Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint campaigning with Norman, who also received support during a seven-way primary and ultimate runoff from conservative groups like the Club for Growth.

Democrats took interest there, too, with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez campaigning with Parnell. But it was small in comparison to the party's investment in a special election in Georgia's 6th District, seen as an early test for the GOP and President Trump: the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee put only $275,000 into South Carolina's race.

That's compared with a $5 million investment in the special election in Georgia's 6th District, which Republican Karen Handel won Tuesday night.

In a statement, Parnell said he had called Norman to congratulate him, thanking his own supporters who Parnell said stood "against a rising tide of bitterness and division" and offered hope.

The Democrat outperformed Clinton in a handful of the 11 counties that make up the 5th District, which stretches north from Columbia to the suburbs of Charlotte, North Carolina. In Chester County, which Trump won with 51 per cent, Parnell edged out Norman by more than 7 percentage points.

But Norman still performed strongly in the district's population centres, including his vote-rich home territory of York County.

"It's a good win, and we're excited," Norman told the AP. "We're looking forward to getting to work in Washington."


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