By Barney Blakeney
The unexpectedly high number of Blacks who voted June 12 in the Democratic primary elections translated into unexpected victories for local Black candidates, but Democratic officials are optimistically cautious about whether that momentum will carry over to the November 6 general elections.
In Charleston County, race played a significant role in the balloting that pushed Black Democrats to victory over their white counterparts. In the highly contentious races for nominations to the probate court judge and register of deeds positions, Black candidates won by small but significant margins. In the probate court judge race, Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley beat Kelsey Willey with 52 percent of the vote. And in the Register of Deeds race Michael Miller beat Patrick Bell with 55 percent of the vote. Early voting/absentee voting played a significant role in the final outcome.
Charleston County Democratic Party First Vice Chair Elizabeth Jordan said two things may have brought more Blacks to the polls for the primary elections – the party’s Get Out the Vote efforts and growing disenchantment with state and national politics.
Also the county’s party had more volunteers canvassing neighborhoods than ever, but people are just more engaged because they see what’s going on politically, she said.
While Black candidates in the primary may have benefitted from the increased participation, the Democratic Party also will benefit, Jordan said. “I see the wave continuing into the general election. As long as people are engaged and participating, I see it impacting the 2020 and 2022 elections. We’re very excited,” she said.
S.C. Democratic Party Chair Trav Robertson said absentee voting among Democrats increased astronomically across the state as communities of color responded to the Trump administration’s disrespectful attempt to erase President Barack Obama’s political legacy – a disrespect shown before to no other president, he said. And Black voters are becoming more politically astute, he added.
“The bigger question is whether the Democratic Party will work on that shared frustration. No one can take the African American vote for granted. The African American community is not monolithic. People want to know how their support will benefit them,” Robertson said. “That’s the only way to move this momentum forward. Our job is not to take our relationship for granted,” he said.