COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Sen. Strom Thurmond, R-S.C., easily won nomination Tuesday to a term that will not end until after his 88th birthday.
With 5 percent of the precincts reporting, Thurmond, who will be 82 in December, received 606 votes or 95 percent of the total to 31 votes for Robert Cunningham, an ex-CIA agent and retired publisher from Pawleys Island.
It marked the first time in Thurmond's 20 years as a Republican that he had drawn primary opposition and party leaders were irked because of the cost of running a statewide election.
Thurmond voted Tuesday morning in his Aiken County precinct and then flew back to Washington instead of remaining in the state while the votes were counted. He will be opposed Nov. 6 by either black Orangeburg photographer Cecil Williams or Melvin Purvis Jr., a Florence minister who brags about being the son of famed FBI agent Melvin Purvis -- whose agents gunned down gangster John Dillinger.
Thurmond has been in the Senate since 1955 and, with the Republican takeover in 1980, became one of the most powerful members of the chamber. As president pro tem, he is third in line for the presidency - behind the vice president and the speaker of the House.
He is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, one of the most influential congressional committees, and he is ranking Republican on the Armed Service Committee, a key post because of South Carolina's heavy economic reliance on the military.
Thurmond's age did not became a factor in the primary, with Thurmond maintaining he is healthy enough to run for, and more importantly, finish his sixth term in the Senate. Noting he exercises an hour and a half each day, Thurmond has said he is in the same physical condition as a 30 to 40-year-old.
Voter turnout was light throughout the state Tuesday on an election day marked by sweltering 90-plus temperatures.