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Changing Dynamics of School Board Will Have Negative Impact on Educating Blacks
9/10/2014 3:32:10 PM

Staff Reports

In about eight weeks Charleston County voters will go to the polls for the Nov. 4 general elections. For African American voters most of the decisions have been made since few incumbents in single member districts at the county and state levels are opposed. Although statewide races offer more challenge, Charleston County School Board races could have the most impact.

At the federal level the races to watch include those for the U.S. Senate and congressional seats. Both Republican senators - Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott are expected to handily win their respective races. Scott will face Black Democrat Joyce Dickerson Nov. 4, but is expected to win the election to become the state’s first Black elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.

Incumbent Democrat Jim Clyburn also is expected to defeat his Republican challenger in the heavily Black Sixth Congressional District that includes much of Charleston County.

Black voters are the ones being challenged in the race for governor Nov. 4. Incumbent Nikki Haley faces off against Democrat Vince Sheheen again since Sheheen’s 2010 loss to Haley. While the race between the Republican incumbent and Democratic challenger is expected to be spectacular, petition candidate Tom Ervin may offer a viable alternative to independent Black voters. The governor’s slate will carry five candidates.

The race for Lt. Gov. also should present a challenge for Black voters. Orangeburg Democrat Bakari Sellers hopes to upset veteran Republican and former Attorney General Henry McMaster. Sellers, whose father Cleveland Sellers was jailed for his role in the protest leading to the Orangeburg Massacre, symbolically represents a new youthful generation of Black Democrats that many voters already find appealing.

The state Superintendent of Education race also will present a challenge for Black voters. Black Republican Molly Spearman faces Democrat Tom Thompson and American Party candidate Ed Murray to determine who succeeds Republican Mick Zais who is not seeking re-election.

Closer to home the House of Representatives races offer challenge. In Goose Creek Black Republican incumbent David Rivers will face Democrat Marian Reddish. Hollywood Democrat Robert Brown faces Republican Carroll O’Neal in House Dist. 116. Charleston County Council Dist. 8 incumbent Anna Johnson is the only incumbent councilperson with opposition Nov. 4. She again faces Thomas Legare for the seat.

The Charleston County School Board races may present the greatest challenge for local Black voters. Presently only three of the board’s nine members are Black, but East Cooper representative Craig Ascue will not seek re-election. Nine candidates are seeking election to the board - four from West Ashley, three from East Cooper and three from the North Area.

Ascue, considered one of the more rational heads on the board, said he has had enough. After serving 12 years as an East Cooper constituent school board member and the past four on the consolidated school board, Ascue said he’s served long enough. But he cautions Charleston County voters to pay close attention to the school board races.

With potentially four new members coming to the board its sensitivity to issues that impact Blacks and other minority constituents will change, he said. Only two Blacks will remain on the board at least for the next two years - Chris Collins and Michael Miller.

“The board’s not going to listen to Michael and they won’t tolerate Chris,” Ascue warns.
Charleston County Election Commission Executive Director Joseph Debney said there are about 250,000 active voters in the county. In the 2010 gubernatorial election only about 47 percent of voters cast ballots, he said.

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