By Barney Blakeney
Several groups, including the Charleston Activist Network, the South Carolina Progressive Network and the League of Women Voters, diligently have been attempting to make voters more informed for the November 6 general elections. And the NAACP has been laser focused on getting out the vote for the elections local political party chairmen describe as energized and volatile.
Though most statewide elections continue to spur chronic disinterest – Sixth Dist. U.S. Cong. James Clyburn in August wrote “In South Carolina, 68,000 African Americans who voted in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections did not vote in the 2010 and 2014 gubernatorial elections” – local elections are getting some intense focus.
Gerrymandering of voting districts is the culprit responsible for much of the disinterest in state office elections, most political watchdogs agree. Few S.C. state legislators ever have opposition either in primary or general elections. In 2016 only 129 of 170 state legislators had major party opposition. But that may not hold true for this election cycle.
The governor’s race is being hard fought between incumbent Henry McMaster and Democratic challenger James Smith and the First Congressional District race between Republican Katie Arrington and Democrat Joe Cunningham stand at center stage in statewide races. And several local elections are stirring the pot among Charleston County voters. Democratic and Republican officials see things from different perspectives.
Although South Carolina voters generally swing toward Republican candidates, Democratic voters in Charleston County have a stronger influence. And Charleston County Board of Elections and Registration Director Joe Debney says from 2010-2016 more than 60,000 people moved to the Tri-county area from other states. That gives Charleston County Democratic Party Chairman Brady Quirk-Garvan confidence.
Quirk-Garvan said he’s excited by the “amazing” amount of energy he sees being generated in this election. It’s more energy than he’s seen in years, he said of the increased number of Democrats, African Americans and women candidates. Quirk-Garvan said he’s unsure if the increased energy comes because many voters are annoyed by the Trump administration or if they just want change.
He thinks Democrats in Charleston County can win three races – Cunningham in the First Congressional District, Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley in the Charleston County Probate Court Judge and Michael Miller in the Register Of Deeds races. Quirk-Garvan said the non-partisan races among the eleven candidates vying for four seats on Charleston County School Board are harder to gauge. Those races won’t be affected by party faithful who vote straight tickets.
Charleston County Republican Party Chair Larry Kobrovsky is cautiously optimistic about races here. He thinks level heads should prevail, but that has given way to racism and intimidation, he said. Citing social media posts meant to denigrate and intimidate Blacks supporting white Republicans he said much of the rhetoric associated with those three campaigns have been volatile. Kobrovsky said he hasn’t been able to get local media to focus on the intimidation of Republican supporters so he’s asked the U.S. Attorney to intervene.