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Local Candidates Scramble As November 8 General Election Approaches
11/2/2016 5:50:32 PM

By Barney Blakeney

In the last week before the Nov. 8 general elections, candidates continue scrambling for attention as the 2016 general election approaches in an election cycle dominated by campaigns in the presidential election.

While candidates in the presidential campaigns spend millions, local candidates have been more fiscally restricted. There have been fewer political ads and far less road side signs than in past elections. And that’s translated into far less visibility for some minority candidates with less than a week to go before the election. Candidates, who have any, are putting their money where it counts most.

The power of incumbency is playing a major factor in contested races, especially in races where the incumbent enjoys safe partisan seats like Republican Sen. Tim Scott who is being challenged by Democrat Thomas Dixon. Dixon’s mounted a substantial grassroots campaign employing social media as far-reaching ally. The Democrat’s criss-crossed the state making personal appearances in a battle against Scott’s well financed Republican stronghold on the seat. The same is playing out in the Sixth Congressional District where incumbent Democrat Jim Clyburn has all but dispensed his challengers.

Most minority members of Charleston County Legislative Delegation are sitting out the November 8 election as all but House Dist. 116 Rep. Robert Brown has opposition. Sen. Marlon Kimpson won a scrap against former Senate Dist. 42 Sen. Robert Ford in the June primary. Less than 10 percent of the county’s more than 269,000 registered voters turned out for that slugfest. Kimpson beat Ford with 80 percent of the vote virtually guaranteeing him the seat in the overwhelmingly Democratic district.

And in S.C. House Dist. 116, incumbent Rep. Robert Brown was challenged by Charleston County School Board member Rev. Eric Mack for the Democratic nomination. Brown dispensed Mack, but faces Republican Carroll O’Neal November 8.

Former Charleston County School Board Chair Ruth Jordan has been running a highly visible campaign to win the council District 7 seat being vacated by Colleen Condon. Jordan is favored to win the seat and become the second black woman serving on the council and the third black woman ever to serve on the council. In Horry County Robin Gause is hoping to be the first black woman elected to that body. Charleston County Councilman Henry Darby is unopposed in Dist. 4.

Charleston County School Board races should produce some excitement. Five seats on the county’s consolidated school board are up for grabs Nov. 8 – one on the Charleston peninsula, two in the North Area and two West Ashley. The races in downtown Charleston and North Charleston are producing the most friction as controversial Dist. 20 Constituent School Board member Tony Lewis seeks to unseat incumbent Todd Garrett. In the North Area, incumbent Rev. Chris Collins seeks to hold the seat he’s had the past eight years as businessman Kevin Hollinshead and community activist Louis Smith hope win the other vacant seat and join Collins among the minority representatives on the board.

The county’s consolidated school board consists of nine members. Of the board’s nine members, only three are African American in the district where about half the students are black. Potentially three blacks could be elected to the new board increasing the number of blacks on the board to four. Some 24 candidates are vying for seats among the county’s eight constituent school boards.

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