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Ex-Columbia city councilwoman wins Democratic vote for Richland County SC Senate seat

Tameika Isaac Devine
Courtesy of Tameika Isaac Devine
Tameika Isaac Devine

The special election to fill the unexpired term of the late Sen. John Scott's District 19 Richland County seat was held Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2023.

Former Columbia City Councilwoman Tameika Isaac Devine on Tuesday won a four-way Democratic primary race for an open Richland County-based Senate seat.

Devine, 50, finished the race with nearly 52% of the vote, or 2,508 votes, helping her to avoid a runoff next month against state Rep. Kambrell Garvin.

Garvin finished with about 45% of the vote, or 2,197 votes.

Two other Democrats in the race, community activists Johnnie Cordero and Javar Juarez, each received less than 2% of the vote. Votes will be certified later this week.

Devine, who far outraised her Democratic opponents in the Senate race, served on Columbia's City Council for nearly 20 years. She ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2021.

Devine raised more than $107,000 for her Senate bid, compared with Garvin's more than $50,000. Neither Cordero nor Juarez filed fundraising reports.

If elected in the Jan. 2 special election, Devine will become the sixth woman to serve in the Republican-controlled, 46-member upper chamber.

"There were times where I was the only woman on council, or sometimes it was just one of two, and to be able to see myself being able to work with these ladies and really bring forward some progress on issues, it really makes me feel good," Devine told SC Public Radio Wednesday.

The northwest Richland County seat opened in August after the death of Sen. John Scott, who was first elected to the state Legislature in 1990. He was 69.

A special election to fill the unexpired term of the Democratic-leaning Senate District 19 seat will be held Jan. 2, exactly a week before lawmakers return to session Jan. 9.

Devine will face three challengers: Independence's Michael A. Addison, United Citizens' Chris Nelums and Republican Kizzie Smalls.

Even with a special election months away, on top of campaign work Devine said also she plans to start meeting with senators, both Democrats and Republicans, so she can be prepared Day One.

"I'm going to start working now," Devine said. "I'm definitely going to be ready on Jan. 9 to hit the ground running."

Devine said she also plans to run again next year for a full term.

All 170 S.C. legislators are up for reelection in November 2024, and will have to run under new lines after redistricting.

Filing opens in March.

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) is a news reporter with South Carolina Public Radio and ETV. She worked at South Carolina newspapers for a decade, previously working as a reporter and then editor of The State’s S.C. State House and politics team, and as a reporter at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News. She grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville in 2013.