By Barney Blakeney
After a record voter turnout, voter machine breakdowns and perceived efforts to manipulate outcomes the November 6 general elections produced some surprising victories and losses. Gov. Henry McMaster was re-elected in a walk-away from Democrat James Smith and Katie Arrington pulled away from challenger Joe Cunningham early in the counting only to see her lead slip away in the wee hours of the morning. By 2 a.m. Cunningham was declared winner.
Lines started to form at one North Charleston precinct in Dorchester County by 6:30 a.m. when James Rouse walked into the Ashley Phosphate Road polling place. He walked out of the precinct at 7:22 a.m. Another voter at West Ashley High School stood in line more than two hours to cast her ballot. By 10 a.m. participation levels in many local precincts already had surpassed those in previous elections. Voters at some locations across the county still were in lines hours after usual closure at 7 p.m.
Political strategist Ayinde Waring early Tuesday said the heavy voter turnout would bode well for Democrats in Charleston County where voters lean toward the Republican Party. He predicted strong showings for James Smith in the governor’s race, Joe Cunningham in the U.S. Congressional Dist. 1 race, Stephanie Ganaway-Pasley in the race for Charleston County Probate Court Judge and Michael Miller in the race for Register of Deeds.
Waring discounted conspiracy theories about machine failures and too few machines at some polling places, especially those in predominantly minority communities, saying the huge volume of voters was unexpected and more likely contributed to the array of problems. He surmised the increased voting saying, “This election probably is less about what’s happening in South Carolina and more about what’s going on at the national level. What’s happening nationally has energized people locally.”
Although Ganaway-Pasley showed strength in the early ballot counting, incumbent probate court Judge Irv Condon cruised to winning a seventh term in office. However, true to Waring’s prediction, Ganaway-Pasley made a strong showing garnering about 48 percent of the vote. Michael Miller pulled away from Republican Tom Hartnett Jr. with 52 percent of the vote to win the election for Register of Deeds.
Donna Brown Newton lost her challenge to Republican Herb Sass in the county council Dist. 1 race. County council incumbent Anna Johnson overcame her challenge. With 100 percent of precincts reporting shortly after midnight, Johnson avoided a runoff for the Dist. 8 seat against Joe Boykin by pulling ahead to win the seat with about 52 percent of the vote. In Berkeley County State House Dist. 15 newcomer JA Moore squeaked out a victory against three-term incumbent Republican Sam Rivers in the district that surrounds Goose Creek. In Hollywood, S.C. House Dist. 116 incumbent Rep. Robert Brown consistently held the lead over Republican challenger Carrol O’Neal.