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School Board Race Heats Up As Blacks See Potential To Become Majority
9/14/2016 2:36:32 PM

Tony Lewis

Chris Collins

Michael Miller
Staff Reports - Competition for seats on Charleston County School Board is beginning to heat up. 

Five seats on the nine-member board will be elected Nov. 8.

The six-way race for the two seats to be elected in the North Area has emerged as the most contentious.

Seats in three geographic areas are being contested - one in downtown Charleston, two in the North Area, and two in West Ashley.

Six African Americans are vying for seats on the board - one in downtown Charleston, two in West Ashley and three in the North Area.

The Nov. 8 election potentially could change the racial demographics of the current board which has only three African American members.

About 40 percent of CCSD students are African American.

African American candidates elected to each of the open seats could put five additional blacks on the board for a total of six on the nine-member board.

Only once in its history has the board had an African American majority.

Incumbent Todd Garrett faces CCSD Constituent Dist. 20 board member Tony Lewis for the downtown Charleston seat.

Garrett, who is white, has held the seat four years in the constituent district where 90 percent of students are black.

But Lewis, who is black, has been severely criticized as being grossly unprepared for the position and may not be able to withstand scrutiny in the countywide election.
In West Ashley incumbent Michael Miller, who is black, is challenged to maintain the seat he won four years ago as well. Three others, including Rodney Lewis, who also is black, are campaigning to win one of the two seats to be elected. Miller, who has emerged as a voice for fiscal accountability as well as racial diversity in the district, has a good chance of retaining his seat. But in the countywide election a number of variables could upset his apple cart.

The most potential for upsetting the apple cart exists in the North Area race where the board’s senior member Rev. Chris Collins, who is black, is seeking a third term. Former Charleston County Parks and Recreation Commission member Kevin Hollinshead and community advocate Louis Smith are the other minority candidates seeking to win one of the two seats to be elected.

The North Area race has become the most contentious as both Collins and Hollinshead have voiced opposition to Smith’s entry in the race. They contend Smith, a Summerville native comes to the contest as a spoiler. Pundits say all three minority candidates in the North Area race might be defeated.

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