By Barney Blakeney
Tuesday’s primary elections produced some local surprises. Charleston County voters wrought surprises in the primary races for Probate Court Judge electing Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley as the Democratic nominee and in the Register of Deeds Democratic primary electing Michael Miller. At the state level Gov. Henry McMaster maintained his lead as the Republican incumbent, but finished as a runoff candidate with political newcomer John Warren. Closer to home, Summerville Representative Katie Arrington beat incumbent Cong. Mark Sanford to vie as the Republican nominee in the strongly Republican-held First Congressional District.
While several races had higher profiles and perhaps higher stakes, in Charleston County where Black Democrats were pitted against white Democrats in the Probate Court Judge and Register of Deeds races, the contests threatened to divide the Black community – casting doubt in some relationships, ending them in others. In the probate court judge race Ganaway-Pasley beat Kelsey Willey with 52 percent of the vote. And in the Register of Deeds race Miller beat Patrick Bell with 55 percent of the vote. Both were underdogs.
In November Ganaway-Pasley will face incumbent 24-year veteran probate court Judge Irving Condon as Miller faces Thomas Hartnett Jr. for the Register of Deeds seat. Some political pundits offered the Democratic underdog wins were the result of Republican crossover voting in the Democratic primary meant to insure the appearance of weaker candidates in the November general election. Still other pundits offer Charleston County’s strong Democratic leaning may spell victory for their candidates in November.
That likely won’t hold true for Columbia Rep. James Smith who handily won the Democratic nomination for governor. He’ll face the Republican nominee. Republicans have won the governor’s race since Mark Sanford took the seat in 2003.
In a historic campaign for the First Congressional District nomination on the Democratic side, Toby Smith lost her bid to become the first Black woman elected to the seat. However, Smith made a surprising showing garnering about 25 percent of the vote.